Approximately 30% of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have elevated whole blood serotonin (5-HT) levels. Genetic linkage and association studies of ASD and of whole blood 5-HT levels as a quantitative trait have revealed sexual dimorphism. Few studies have examined the presence of a sex difference on hyperserotonemia within ASD. To assess whether the rate of hyperserotonemia is different in males than in females with ASD, we measured whole blood 5-HT levels in 292 children and adolescents with ASD, the largest sample in which this biomarker has been assessed. Based upon previous work suggesting that hyperserotonemia is more common prior to puberty, we focused our analysis on the 182 pre-pubertal children with ASD. 42% of pre-pubertal participants were within the hyperserotonemia range. In this population, we found that males were significantly more likely to manifest hyperserotonemia than females (P = 0.03). As expected, no significant difference was found in the post-pubertal population. Additional work will be needed to replicate this intriguing finding and to understand whether it could potentially explain differences in patterns of ASD risk between males and females. Autism Res 2017, 10: 1417–1423.
- autism spectrum disorder