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Saliva Difference Distinguishes Autistic Children

Salivary proteins in autistic children differ from those in other children in levels of protein modification

MONDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Many children with autism and related disorders have lower levels of a protein modification on four salivary proteins, suggesting that this could be used to distinguish these children from others, according to a report released online in November in advance of publication in the Journal of Proteome Research.

Massimo Castagnola, from the Universita Cattolica in Rome, Italy, and colleagues compared the salivary peptides present in 27 patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) -- including autism, Asperger or pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified -- with 23 age-matched healthy children.

The researchers found significantly lower levels of phosphorylation of four specific salivary phospho-peptides (statherin, histatin 1 and two forms of acidic-proline-rich proteins) in ASD patients. Hypo-phosphorylation of at least one peptide was present in 66 percent of children with ASD, they note. Ten of 14 ASD patients had normal to borderline cognitive development and were among the hypo-phosphorylated group, the report indicates.

"Hypo-phosphorylation of salivary peptides suggests potential asynchronies in the phosphorylation of other secretory proteins, which could be relevant in central nervous system development either during embryonic development or in early infancy," Castagnola and colleagues conclude. "These results suggest that analysis of salivary phospho-peptides might help to discriminate a considerable subgroup of ASD patients."

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