• neuronal plasticity;
  • autistic disorder;
  • amniotic fluid;
  • matrix metalloproteinase;
  • neurotrophins

Evidence suggests that some developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), are caused by errors in brain plasticity. Given the important role of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and neurotrophins (NTs) in neuroplasticity, amniotic fluid samples for 331 ASD cases and 698 frequency-matched controls were analyzed for levels of MMP-9, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, NT-4 and transforming growth factor-β utilizing a Danish historic birth cohort and Danish nationwide health registers. Laboratory measurements were performed using an in-house multiplex sandwich immunoassay Luminex xMAP method, and measurements were analyzed using tobit and logistic regression. Results showed elevated levels of MMP-9 in ASD cases compared with controls (crude and adjusted tobit regression P-values: 0.01 and 0.06). Our results highlight the importance of exploring the biologic impact of MMP-9 and potential therapeutic roles of its inhibitors in ASD and may indicate that neuroplastic impairments in ASD may present during pregnancy. Autism Res 2012, 5: 428–433. © 2012 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.