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Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2019 Jun;73(6):317-322. doi: 10.1111/pcn.12833. Epub 2019 Apr 1.

Betaine ameliorates prenatal valproic-acid-induced autism-like behavioral abnormalities in mice by promoting homocysteine metabolism.

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Psychiatric Ward, Qingdao Mental Health Center, Qingdao, China.
Psychological Clinic, Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University, Qingdao, China.
Psychosomatic Ward, Shandong Mental Health Center, Jinan, China.



Abnormally high levels of homocysteine (Hcy) are associated with autism spectrum disorder. Betaine is a methyl group donor in Hcy metabolism, and is known to prevent noxious Hcy accumulation. This study explored whether betaine could influence Hcy metabolism in a mouse model of autism and ameliorate behavioral abnormalities.


Pregnant ICR mice were administered valproic acid (VPA) intraperitoneally on Embryonic Day 12.5. Serum Hcy concentrations in the offspring were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Expressions of Hcy-metabolism-related enzymes, betaine-Hcy methyltransferase, cystathionine β-synthase, and methionine synthase, were measured by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and western blotting. Offspring were treated by either betaine or saline at the age of 8 weeks and serum Hcy concentrations were measured. Social behaviors were assessed by sniff-duration test and three-chamber test. Repetitive behavior was evaluated by marble-burying test. Tail-flick test was performed to measure nociceptive sensitivity.


Prenatal VPA-exposed mice showed significantly elevated Hcy concentrations and decreased betaine-Hcy methyltransferase expression. Treatment with betaine could reduce Hcy level in VPA-exposed mice, attenuate social impairment and repetitive behavior, and normalize nociceptive sensitivity in this model.


Betaine could ameliorate autism-like features and play a beneficial role in a mouse autism model induced by prenatal VPA exposure.


autism; behavior; betaine; homocysteine; valproic acid


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