, Volume 236, Issue 2, pp 831–838 | Cite as

Elevated IL-16 expression is associated with development of immune dysfunction in children with autism

  • Sheikh F. AhmadEmail author
  • Mushtaq A. Ansari
  • Ahmed Nadeem
  • Saleh A. Bakheet
  • Laila Y. AL-Ayadhi
  • Sabry M. Attia
Original Investigation


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication skills and social behaviors. Several studies have suggested that neuroimmune dysfunction plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of ASD; however, its exact etiology is unknown. Interleukin-16 (IL-16), a chemoattractant, is associated with various inflammatory processes. However, its role in children with ASD is unclear. This study aimed to investigate whether IL-16 expression is associated with immune dysfunction in children with ASD. We examined IL-16 expression in CD4+, CD8+, CD14+, CCR3+, and CXCR7+ cells in typically developing (TD) controls and children with ASD using flow cytometry in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). We also investigated the expression of IL-1β+IL-16+, IL-6+IL-16+, and TNF-α+IL-16+ in TD controls and children with ASD. We further explored IL-16 mRNA and protein expression using RT-PCR and western blotting. CD4+IL-16+, CD8+IL-16+, CD14+IL-16+, CCR3+IL-16+, and CXCR7+IL-16+ cells increased significantly in children with ASD compared with TD controls. We also showed that expression of IL-1β+IL-16+, IL-6+IL-16+, and TNF-α+IL-16+ was elevated in children with ASD compared with TD controls. Moreover, IL-16 mRNA and protein expression was significantly induced in children with ASD compared with TD controls. These results suggest that IL-16 expression could play an essential role in immune alteration in children with ASD.


Typically developing controls Autism spectrum disorder Peripheral blood mononuclear cells Interleukin-16 Cytokines 


Funding information

The Deanship of Scientific Research at King Saud University funded this work through the research group project No. RGP-120.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of PharmacyKing Saud UniversityRiyadhKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  2. 2.College of PharmacyKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.Autism Research and Treatment Center, AL-Amodi Autism Research Chair, Department of Physiology, College of MedicineKing Saud UniversityRiyadhKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  4. 4.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of PharmacyAl-Azhar UniversityCairoEgypt

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