Original Articles

Serum Zonulin Levels Are Higher Among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Correlated with Social Impairment


Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Aksaray University Research and Training Hospital, Aksaray, Turkey


Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Konya City Hospital, Konya, Turkey


Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Health Sciences Dr Sami Ulus Maternity and Children’s Training and Research Hospital, Ankara, Turkey


Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Aksaray University Training and Research Hospital, Aksaray, Turkey

Alpha Psychiatry 2021; 22: 250-256
DOI: 10.5152/alphapsychiatry.2021.21152
Read: 4385 Downloads: 196 Published: 12 August 2021

Objective: Zonulin is a protein that affects the integrity of intercellular connections in the intestines. It has been emphasized that autoimmune diseases as well as neurodevelopmental disorders, for example autism spectrum disorder (ASD), may occur through alterations in intestinal permeability and blood-brain barrier. We aimed to investigate the gastrointestinal permeability of individuals with ASD by determining serum zonulin levels and their relationship to symptom severity.

Methods: Twenty-five ASD patients and 19 controls were included. Serum zonulin levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kits. Clinical severity was assessed by the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), and social skills of the control group were evaluated by the Conners’ Parents and Teacher’s Rating Scales-Revised/Long Forms (CPRS-CTRS).

Results: Mean zonulin levels were significantly higher in the ASD group and positively correlated with CARS scores. After regression analysis, serum zonulin levels predicted CARS total scores. We could not find any significant correlation between zonulin levels and CPRS-CTRS sociability subscale scores in the control group.

Conclusion: The positive correlation between serum zonulin levels and ASD severity may require precaution for impaired intestinal permeability in clinical practice, especially for the cases in which sociability is severely impaired. However, it is too early to state that intestinal permeability has a role in the etiology of ASD. Further studies involving specific autism subgroups, and samples with certain dietary differences are needed.

Cite this article as: Kara H, Açıkel SB, Çetinkaya M, Tuncer SÇ. Serum zonulin levels are higher among children with autism spectrum disorders and correlated with social impairment. Alpha Psychiatry. 2021;22(5):250-256.

EISSN 2757-8038