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Open Access Review

Matrix metalloproteinases in autism spectrum disorders

Morsi W Abdallah12* and Tanja M Michel1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Rostock University Medical Center, Gehlsheimer Straße 20, Rostock 18147, Germany

2 Department of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Rostock University Medical Center, Gehlsheimer Str. 20, Rostock 18147, Germany

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Journal of Molecular Psychiatry 2013, 1:16  doi:10.1186/2049-9256-1-16

Published: 17 September 2013


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are group of developmental disabilities with a complex neurobiological basis including putative changes in the immune system. They are characterized by pervasive qualitative abnormalities in social interactions, communication, and stereotyped behaviour. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) represent a group of proteases which play an important role in neuroinflammation and neurodevelopment. Therefore, they possibly have a crucial function in the etiopathology of ASD. In this review, we summarize the plausibility of the hypothesis that MMPs are involved in the neuropathology of ASD. Possible pathways through which MMPs can contribute to the pathogenesis of ASD are discussed including neuroinflammatory mechanisms inclusive of mediating neuropathological effects of infections, the associations between MMPs and other biomarkers such as cytokines, chemokines and neurotrophic factors. Despite sufficient evidence for such an involvement of MMPs in the neuropathology of ASD, they have not yet been extensively studied in this context. Thus, further research in this field is not only urgently needed but also very promising and may also lead to new therapeutic approaches.

Fragile-X syndrome; Gelatinase; Hyperplasticity; Inflammation; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Protease