Intestinal Morphology in mouse models
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) identifies a neurodevelopmental disease defined by social impairments and repetitive or stereotyped behaviors. The etiology of ASD remains unclear; it primarily affects the brain, but a link between gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, inflammatory mucosal pathology and this disorder has been suggested. In particular, a central role seems to be played by an imbalance in pro-and anti-inflammatory cytokines, oxidative stress, and apoptosis. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is a protein of innate immunity responsible for the regulation and maintenance of intestinal homeostasis. Through histochemical and immunohistochemical evaluations we analyzed the intestinal morphology and the immunopositivity of TLR4 and of other pro-inflammatory and apoptotic proteins in BTBR T+Itpr3tf/J mice. Morphological data showed that the mucosal tunica presented longer intestinal villi. The length of the villi and the epithelial surface determine the exchanges of the intestinal mucosa with luminal contents, modifying the microbiota composition. The biochemical and immunohistochemical results indicated a close relationship among the increase of TLR4 and the activation of NF-kB subunits (p65 and p50) and pro-inflammatory and apoptotic proteins, such as cyclooxygenase-2, interleukin-1β, inducible nitric oxide synthase, tumor nuclear factor—alpha, caspase-3, caspase-8. These preliminary results require more in-depth study but they suggest the TLR4 signaling pathway as a possible target for therapeutic approaches to reduce GI disorders in ASD.