AsianScientist (Jul. 27, 2021) – In a world first, an international team of researchers have identified autism genes that may be responsible for the sex-specific effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on the brain. These findings, published in Scientific Reports, suggest that BPA exposure may be one reason why autism is more common in males.
While BPA is hardly a household term, chances are, you’ve used a product containing the substance—such as water bottles, food containers and even CDs. Alarmingly, the chemical has also been found in the micro- and nanoplastics littering the environment as well as the human placenta, with potentially harmful effects.
“Many studies have shown BPA impairs neurological functions known to be disrupted in autism spectrum disorder [ASD],” said corresponding author Dr. Tewarit Sarachana, an Assistant Professor at Chulalongkorn University. “However, we still do not know how BPA can cause or increase the susceptibility of ASD and whether it also plays a role in the male bias of the disorder.”
To better understand the role of BPA in autism susceptibility, Sarachana and collaborators from Tohoku University and the George Washington University took a closer look at rat offspring that had been exposed to BPA in the womb.
Their findings showed that that BPA exposure during pregnancy decreased the viability and density of neurons in the hippocampus, as well as impaired learning and memory specifically in male offspring. In addition, the expression of several autism-related genes were dysregulated—indicating that under prenatal BPA exposure, these genes may determine the risk of autism in males.
Taken together, the resulting sex differences in the effects of BPA strongly suggest that BPA negatively impacts the brains of male and female offspring through different molecular mechanisms.
“We are progressively working on these issues to identify the sex-specific molecular mechanism of BPA in the brain. Understanding the effects of BPA and its molecular mechanisms in ASD may lead to changes in the policy regarding the use of BPA or even the discovery of molecular targets for ASD treatment in the future,” concluded Sarachana.
Source: Tohoku University; Photo: Shutterstock.
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