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Clin Chim Acta. 2011 May 12;412(11-12):1036-42. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2011.02.021. Epub 2011 Feb 19.

A biochemical study on the level of proteins and their percentage of nitration in the hair and nail of autistic children.

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Department of Biochemistry, Bharathi Women's College (Affiliated to University of Madras), North Chennai, 600 108, Tamil Nadu, India.



Autism is a complex disorder which is heterogeneous in nature with varying degrees of severity for which no specific biological marker has been identified. Several studies are focused on the hair and nail protein pattern as a means to identify specific markers for the diagnosis of many childhood disorders like mental retardation, dyslexia, trichorrhexis nodosa, trichothiodystrophy, etc. The present study is one such approach in investigating the electrophoretic pattern of proteins in hard keratins and their percentage of nitration since nitric oxide production and nitration of tyrosine residues in proteins of autistic children are the emerging topic of research.


We extracted and quantified the proteins from hair and nail samples of autistic children with different grades of severity, [low functioning autism (LFA), medium functioning autism (MFA), and high functioning autism (HFA)] and also from age- and sex-matched normal children. Protein pattern was evaluated by one-dimensional SDS-PAGE and the separated proteins were made to cross react with anti-nitro tyrosine antibody by Western blot analysis. Blood levels of TBARS, NO, GSH, vitamins A and C, SOD and GPx were also determined.


In the autistic groups, decreased concentration of protein in both hair and nail samples was observed. The SDS-PAGE analysis revealed that there was a significant decrease in both high and low sulfur proteins in the hair and nail extracts of autistic children and the Western blot analysis showed increased percentage of nitration of low sulfur proteins in autistic children when compared with normal children. Decreased levels of enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants and increased concentration of TBARS and NO were also observed in the blood of autistic children. The LFA group showed more significant alteration (p<0.001) in the concentration of proteins (in hair and nail) and percentage of nitration when compared with HFA and controls.


Lower protein content and higher percentage of nitration in hair and nail of autistic children correlated with their degrees of severity.

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