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J Cent Nerv Syst Dis. 2014 Sep 9;6:79-83. doi: 10.4137/JCNSD.S13767. eCollection 2014.

Increased Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) Associated with Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) and Symptom Severity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).

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1
Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY, Health Research Institute and Pfeiffer Medical Center, Warrenville, IL.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

One in 88 children in the US is thought to have one of the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). ASDs are characterized by social impairments and communication problems. Growth factors and their receptors may play a role in the etiology of ASDs. Research has shown that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation is associated with nerve cell development and repair. This study was designed to measure plasma levels of EGFR in autistic children and correlate these levels with its ligand, epidermal growth factor, other related putative biomarkers such as hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), the ligand for MET (MNNG HOS transforming gene) receptor, as well as the symptom severity of 19 different behavioral symptoms.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS:

Plasma EGFR concentration was measured in 33 autistic children and 34 age- and gender-similar neurotypical controls, using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Plasma EGFR levels were compared to putative biomarkers known to be associated with EGFR and MET and severity levels of 19 autism-related symptoms.

RESULTS:

We found plasma EGFR levels significantly higher in autistic children, when compared to neurotypical controls. EGFR levels correlated with HGF and high-mobility group protein B1 (HMGB1) levels, but not other tested putative biomarkers, and EGFR levels correlated significantly with severity of expressive language, conversational language, focus/attention, hyperactivity, eye contact, and sound sensitivity deficiencies.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results suggest a relationship between increased plasma EGFR levels and designated symptom severity in autistic children. A strong correlation between plasma EGFR and HGF and HMGB1 suggests that increased EGFR levels may be associated with the HGF/Met signaling pathway, as well as inflammation.

KEYWORDS:

EGF; EGFR; HGF; HMGB1; autism; symptom severity

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