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Transl Psychiatry. 2012 Aug 14;2:e148. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.72.

Inhibin B and anti-Müllerian hormone/Müllerian-inhibiting substance may contribute to the male bias in autism.

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Department of Anatomy, Otago School of Medical Sciences, The University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The autistic spectrum disorders have a significant male bias in incidence, which is unexplained. The Sertoli cells of the immature testes secrete supra-adult levels of Müllerian-inhibiting substance/anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and inhibin B (InhB), with both hormones being putative regulators of brain development. We report here, that 82 boys with an autism spectrum disorder have normal levels of InhB and AMH. However, the boys' level of InhB correlated with their autism diagnostic interview-revised (ADI-R) scores for the social interaction (R=0.29, P=0.009, N=82) and communication domains (R=0.29, P=0.022, N=63), and with the number of autistic traits the boys exhibited (R=0.34 and 0.27, respectively). The strengths of the abovementioned correlates were stronger in the boys with milder autism (R=0.42 and 0.50, respectively), with AMH exhibiting a significant negative correlation to the ADI-R score in these boys (R=-0.44 and R=-0.39, respectively). Neither hormone correlated to the incidence of stereotyped and repetitive behaviours. This suggests that the male bias in the autistic spectrum has multiple determinants, which modulate the effects of an otherwise non-dimorphic pathology. Furthermore, AMH and InhB have opposing effects on the SMAD1/5/8 pathway, and opposing correlates to autistic traits, implicating the SMAD pathways as a putative point of molecular convergence for the autistic spectrum.

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