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Biomark Insights. 2014 Oct 6;9:85-9. doi: 10.4137/BMI.S15218. eCollection 2014.

Decreased Mitogen Inducible Gene 6 (MIG-6) Associated with Symptom Severity in Children with Autism.

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Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology, Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY, USA. ; Research Director, Health Research Institute and Pfeiffer Medical Center, Warrenville, IL, USA.



Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) demonstrate impairment in social interactions and problems in verbal and nonverbal communication. Autism spectrum disorders are thought to affect 1 in 88 children in the US. Recent research has shown that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation is associated with nerve cell development and repair. Mitogen inducible gene 6 (MIG-6) is a 58-kDa non-kinase scaffolding adaptor protein consisting of 462 amino-acids, which has been shown to be a negative feedback regulator of EGFR and Met receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling.


In this study, we determined plasma levels of MIG-6, which suppresses the EGFR RTK pathway in autistic children, and compared MIG-6 levels with the EGFR ligand, epidermal growth factor (EGF), and the cMET ligand, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). MIG-6 levels were also compared to the symptom severity of 19 different autistic behaviors. Plasma MIG-6 concentration was measured in 40 autistic children and 39 neurotypical, age, and gender similar controls using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Plasma MIG-6 levels were compared to putative biomarkers known to be associated with EGFR and cMET and severity levels of 19 autism related symptoms [awareness, expressive language, receptive language, (conversational) pragmatic language, focus/attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, perseveration, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, hypotonia (low muscle tone), tip toeing, rocking/pacing, stimming, obsessions/fixations, eye contact, sound sensitivity, light sensitivity, and tactile sensitivity].


In this study, we found that plasma MIG-6 levels in autistic children (182.41 ± 24.3 pg/ml) were significantly lower than neurotypical controls (1779.76 ± 352.5; P = 1.76E - 5). Decreased MIG-6 levels correlated with serotonin, dopamine, Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), and urokinase receptor (uPAR) concentration, but not with other tested putative biomarkers. MIG-6 levels also correlated significantly with severity of expressive language, receptive language, tip toeing, rocking/pacing, and hand flapping/stimming.


These results suggest a relationship between decreased plasma MIG-6 levels, biomarkers associated with the EGFR pathway, and symptom severity in autism. A strong correlation between plasma MIG-6 and dopamine and serotonin levels suggest that decreased MIG-6 levels may be associated with abnormal neurotransmitter synthesis and/or action. A strong correlation between MIG-6 and uPAR and the inflammatory marker TNF-alpha suggests that low MIG-6 levels may be associated with the HGF/Met signaling pathway, as well as inflammation in autistic children.


EGF; EGFR; MIG-6; TNF-alpha; autism; dopamine; serotonin; symptom severity; uPAR

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