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Thyroid dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorder is associated with folate receptor alpha autoimmune disorder

Thought this might be of interest to quite a few people here who have mentioned Autism Spectrum Disorders over the years.

J Neuroendocrinol. 2017 Feb 15. doi: 10.1111/jne.12461. [Epub ahead of print]

Thyroid dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorder is associated with folate receptor alpha autoimmune disorder.

Frye RE1, Wynne R1, Rose S1, Slattery J1, Delhey L1, Tippett M1, Kahler SG1, Bennuri SC1, Melnyk S1, Sequeira JM2, Quadros E2.

Author information

1Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, 72202.

2Department of Medicine, State University of New York - Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, 11203, USA.


Folate receptor α (FRα) autoantibodies (FRAAs) are prevalent in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). FRAAs disrupt folate transport across the blood-brain barrier by binding to the FRα. Thyroid dysfunction is frequently found in children with ASD. We measured blocking and binding FRAAs and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), free T4 (FT4), total T3 (TT3), reverse T3 (rT3), thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) and other metabolites in 87 children with ASD, 84 of whom also underwent behavior and cognition testing and in 42 of whom FRAAs, TSH and FT4 were measured at two time points. To better understand the significance of the FRα in relation to thyroid development, we examined FRα expression on prenatal and postnatal thyroid. TSH, TT3 and rT3 were above the normal range in 7%, 33% and 51% of the participants and TRH was below the normal range in 13% of the participants. FT4 was rarely outside the normal range. TSH concentration was positively and the FT4/TSH, TT3/TSH and rT3/TSH ratios were inversely related to blocking FRAA titers. On repeated measurements, change in TSH and FT4/TSH ratio were found to correspond to change in blocking FRAA titers. TSH and the FT4/TSH, TT3/TSH and rT3/TSH ratios were related to irritability on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist and several scales of the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), while TT3 was associated with SRS subscales and TRH were related to Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale subscales. The thyroid showed significant FRα expression during the early prenatal period but expression decreased significantly in later gestation and postnatal thyroid tissue. This study suggests that thyroid dysfunction in ASD may be related to the blocking FRAA. The high expression of FRα in the early fetal thyroid suggests that fetal and neonatal exposure to maternal FRAAs could affect the development of the thyroid and may contribute to the pathology in ASD.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


Folate receptor autoantibody; autism spectrum disorders; free T4; thyroid function; thyroid stimulating hormone

PMID: 28199771

DOI: 10.1111/jne.12461

2 Replies

Very interesting as I have graves disease and a son newly diagnosed with autism......


Blimey. Thats significant stuff.

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