The serotonin-N-acetylserotonin–melatonin pathway as a biomarker for autism spectrum disorders

Pagan, C. et al. (2014) The serotonin-N-acetylserotonin–melatonin pathway as a biomarker for autism spectrum disorders. Translational Psychiatry, 4(11), e479. (doi: 10.1038/tp.2014.120) (PMID:25386956) (PMCID:PMC4259991)

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Abstract

Elevated whole-blood serotonin and decreased plasma melatonin (a circadian synchronizer hormone that derives from serotonin) have been reported independently in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Here, we explored, in parallel, serotonin, melatonin and the intermediate N-acetylserotonin (NAS) in a large cohort of patients with ASD and their relatives. We then investigated the clinical correlates of these biochemical parameters. Whole-blood serotonin, platelet NAS and plasma melatonin were assessed in 278 patients with ASD, their 506 first-degree relatives (129 unaffected siblings, 199 mothers and 178 fathers) and 416 sex- and age-matched controls. We confirmed the previously reported hyperserotonemia in ASD (40% (35–46%) of patients), as well as the deficit in melatonin (51% (45–57%)), taking as a threshold the 95th or 5th percentile of the control group, respectively. In addition, this study reveals an increase of NAS (47% (41–54%) of patients) in platelets, pointing to a disruption of the serotonin-NAS–melatonin pathway in ASD. Biochemical impairments were also observed in the first-degree relatives of patients. A score combining impairments of serotonin, NAS and melatonin distinguished between patients and controls with a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 85%. In patients the melatonin deficit was only significantly associated with insomnia. Impairments of melatonin synthesis in ASD may be linked with decreased 14-3-3 proteins. Although ASDs are highly heterogeneous, disruption of the serotonin-NAS–melatonin pathway is a very frequent trait in patients and may represent a useful biomarker for a large subgroup of individuals with ASD.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gillberg, Professor Christopher
Authors: Pagan, C., Delorme, R., Callebert, J., Goubran-Botros, H., Amsellem, F., Drouot, X., Boudebesse, C., Le Dudal, K., Ngo-Nguyen, N., Laouamri, H., Gillberg, C., Leboyer, M., Bourgeron, T., and Launay, J.-M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Translational Psychiatry
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2158-3188
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited
First Published:First published in Translational Psychiatry 4:e479
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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