Brief Report: Whole Blood Serotonin Levels and Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder
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Elevated whole blood serotonin levels are observed in more than 25 % of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Co-occurring gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are also common in ASD but have not previously been examined in relationship with hyperserotonemia, despite the synthesis of serotonin in the gut. In 82 children and adolescents with ASD, we observed a correlation between a quantitative measure of lower GI symptoms and whole blood serotonin levels. No significant association was seen between functional constipation diagnosis and serotonin levels in the hyperserotonemia range, suggesting that this correlation is not driven by a single subgroup. More specific assessment of gut function, including the microbiome, will be necessary to evaluate the contribution of gut physiology to serotonin levels in ASD.
KeywordsSerotonin 5-HT Gastrointestinal (GI) IL-6 Medical comorbidities Autism Treatment Network
Aberrant Behavior Checklist
Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule
Autism spectrum disorder
Questionnaire on Pediatric Gastrointestinal Symptoms-Rome III
Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised
Sensory Over-Responsivity Inventory
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory
We would like to thank the children and families who participated in this study. This research was supported by a Grant given to the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA Grant# UA3MC11054). This article was reviewed by the funding body prior to submission.
SM and BF contributed to participant recruitment, data collection, data entry, data interpretation and manuscript writing. EL, BP, KW, PL, KG, DB, and JV contributed to study design, data interpretation, and manuscript writing. EM and EM performed the statistical analysis and contributed to manuscript writing. CG contributed to the immunoassays of IL-6 and manuscript writing. GA contributed to the HPLC assays of 5-HT and manuscript writing. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele has served on advisory boards for Novartis and Roche Pharmaceuticals. He has received research funding from Novartis, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Seaside Therapeutics, Forest, Sunovion, and SynapDx. Dr. Beversdorf has received research funding from Seaside Therapeutics. The other authors report no conflicts of interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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