Physiological mediators of prenatal environmental influences in autism spectrum disorder

Richard E. Frye, Janet Cakir, Shannon Rose, Raymond F. Palmer, Christine Austin, Paul Curtin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Recent research has pointed to the importance of the prenatal environment in the etiology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but the biological mechanisms which mitigate these environmental factors are not clear. Mitochondrial metabolism abnormalities, inflammation and oxidative stress as common physiological disturbances associated with ASD. Network analysis of the scientific literature identified several leading prenatal environmental factors associated with ASD, particularly air pollution, pesticides, the microbiome and epigenetics. These leading prenatal environmental factors were found to be most associated with inflammation, followed by oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. Other prenatal factors associated with ASD not identified by the network analysis were also found to be significantly associated with these common physiological disturbances. A better understanding of the biological mechanism which mediate the effect of prenatal environmental factors can lead to insights of how ASD develops and the development of targeted therapeutics to prevent ASD from occuring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2000307
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • air pollution
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • epigenetics
  • inflammation
  • microbiome
  • mitochondria
  • oxidative stress
  • pesticides
  • prenatal environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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