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The mechanisms behind autoimmune reaction to nervous system antigens in autism are not understood. We assessed the reactivity of sera from 50 autism patients and 50 healthy controls to specific peptides from gliadin and the cerebellum. A significant percentage of autism patients showed elevations in antibodies against gliadin and cerebellar peptides simultaneously. For examining cross-reaction between dietary proteins and cerebellar antigens, antibodies were prepared in rabbits, and binding of rabbit anti-gliadin, anti-cerebellar peptides, anti-MBP, anti-milk, anti-egg, anti-soy and anti-corn to either gliadin- or cerebellarantigen- coated wells was measured. In comparison to anti-gliadin peptide binding to gliadin peptide at 100%, the reaction of anti-cerebellar peptide to gliadin peptide was 22%, whereas the binding of anti-myelin basic protein (MBP), anti-milk, anti-egg and anti-soy to gliadin was less than 10%. Further examination of rabbit anti-gliadin (EQVPLVQQ) and anti-cerebellar (EDVPLLED) 8 amino acid (AA) peptides with human serum albumin (HSA) and an unrelated peptide showed no binding, but the reaction of these antibodies with both the cerebellar and gliadin peptides was greater than 60%. This crossreaction was further confirmed by DOT-immunoblot and inhibition studies. We conclude that a subgroup of patients with autism produce antibodies against Purkinje cells and gliadin peptides, which may be responsible for some of the neurological symptoms in autism.
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