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Brain Opioid Activity and Oxidative Injury: Different Molecular Scenarios Connecting Celiac Disease and Autistic Spectrum Disorder

  • Autori: Di Liberto, Diana; D'Anneo, Antonella; Carlisi, Daniela; Emanuele, Sonia; De Blasio, Anna; Calvaruso, Giuseppe; Giuliano, Michela; Lauricella, Marianna
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2020
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista
  • Parole Chiave: Autistic Spectrum Disorder; celiac disease; mitochondrial damage; opioids; oxidative stress
  • OA Link:


Celiac Disease (CD) is an immune-mediated disease triggered by the ingestion of wheat gliadin and related prolamins from other cereals, such as barley and rye. Immunity against these cereal-derived proteins is mediated by pro-inflammatory cytokines produced by both innate and adaptive system response in individuals unable to adequately digest them. Peptides generated in this condition are absorbed across the gut barrier, which in these patients is characterized by the deregulation of its permeability. Here, we discuss a possible correlation between CD and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) pathogenesis. ASD can be induced by an excessive and inappropriate brain opioid activity during the neonatal period. Cereal-derived peptides produced in celiac patients cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to endogenous opioid receptors interfering with neurotransmission and generating deleterious effects on brain maturation, learning and social relations. Moreover, an increase in oxidative stress and a decrease in the antioxidant capacity, as well as an extended mitochondrial impairment in the brain, could represent a possible connection between ASD and CD. Therefore, we critically discuss the proposed relationship between ASD and CD and the possible usefulness of a gluten-free diet in ASD patients.