The role of zinc supplementation on the metallothionein system in children with autism spectrum disorder


The present research was carried out to elucidate the role of zinc (Zn) supplementation on the plasma concentration and gene expression, as well as the effects on cognitive-motor performance, in a cohort of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study was performed on a cohort of 30 pediatric subjects with ASD, encompassing an age range of 3–8 years. The impact of Zn supplementation was investigated in 3 months (or 12 weeks) on the ASD children. Each daily dosage of Zn was calculated as being equal to the body weight in kg plus 15–20 mg. The effect of Zn was also evaluated on the serum level of metallothionein 1 (MT-1A), and the severity of autism via scores on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale. The effect of Zn was investigated on the gene expression of MT1-A before and after Zn supplementation. The data of the present study showed an increase in cognitive-motor performance and an increased serum metallothionein concentration, as well as a significant lowering in the circulating serum levels of copper (Cu) following Zn supplementation. In the cohort of ASD patients, the genetic expression of MT-1 was higher after Zn therapy than before the treatment. In conclusion, Zn supplementation might be an important factor in the treatment of children with ASD.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2



Autism spectrum disorder


Childhood Autism Rating Scale


Copied DNA


Central nervous system




Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Gamma-aminobutyric acid


Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase


Metallothionein 1A


Polymerase chain reaction


Test of gross motor development






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All authors confirmed they have contributed to the intellectual content of this paper and have met the following three requirements: (a) significant contributions to the conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; (b) drafting or revising the article for intellectual content; and (c) final approval of the published article.

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Correspondence to Geir Bjørklund.

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Meguid, N.A., Bjørklund, G., Gebril, O.H. et al. The role of zinc supplementation on the metallothionein system in children with autism spectrum disorder. Acta Neurol Belg 119, 577–583 (2019).

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  • Autism
  • Cognitive motor performance
  • Zinc
  • Metallothionine