190: Expression of autism-associated genes in intrauterine growth restriction


      Autism spectrum disorders are marked by delays in the development of social and language skills in children by 3 years of age. Previous epidemiological studies have reported an association between decreased fetal growth and increased risk for autism. Our objective was to determine if IUGR causes changes in the expression of genes in the fetal brain known to be associated with autism.

      Study Design

      Timed-pregnant Sprauge-Dawley rats were fed either ad libidum (n=5) or at 50% caloric restriction (n=5) beginning at gestational day (gd) 10. Dams were euthanized on gd 21 and fetal brains harvested and stored at −70 oC. Expression of IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6, Reelin, PTEN, SHANK3, HGF, BDNF, and PCP-2 was evaluated for 3 pups from each litter by real-time RT-PCR and normalized to GAPDH expression.


      Gene expression for HGF was significantly decreased in the brains of fetuses harvested from food-restricted mothers (P=0.043). However, no differences in Reelin, PTEN, BDNF, SHANK3, PCP-2, IL-1β, TNF-α nor IL-6 was detected.


      Experimental fetal growth restriction decreases the expression of HGF in the fetal brain. Since low HGF has been found in human studies to be associated with high-functioning autism, there may be a link between IUGR, HGF and ASD