Autism-Linked Protein Differs in Male and Female Brains

The autism-linked protein MET is expressed at lower levels in the brains of men with autism than in control brains, but women with autism do not differ from healthy controls, according to unpublished research presented Thursday at the Salk Institute, Fondation IPSEN and Nature Symposium on Biological Complexity in La Jolla, California.

MET is involved in immune and gut regulation, and in the migration of neurons and formation of synapses, the junctions between neurons. The new study found evidence that MET is regulated by MeCP2, the gene that is mutated in individuals with Rett syndrome.

Researchers have begun to probe differences in gene expression in the brains of healthy men and women, but this is the first study to report differences between men and women with autism.

“I think people just haven’t looked,” says Jasmine Plummer, a postdoctoral researcher in Pat Levitt’s laboratory at the University of Southern California who presented the work. “In most cases we just pool our data.”

by Sarah DeWeerdt, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

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