Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Abnormal lipid metabolism has been suggested to contribute to its pathogenesis. Further exploration of its underlying biochemical mechanisms is needed. In a search for reliable biomarkers for the pathophysiology of ASD, hippocampal tissues from the ASD model BTBR T+ Itpr3tf/J (BTBR) mice and C57BL/6J mice were analyzed, using four-dimensional (4D) label-free proteomic analysis and bioinformatics analysis. Differentially expressed proteins were significantly enriched in lipid metabolic pathways. Among them, apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA-I) is a hub protein and its expression was significantly higher in the BTBR mice. The investigation of protein levels (using Western blotting) also confirmed this observation. Furthermore, expressions of SphK2 and S1P in the ApoA-I pathway both increased. Using the SphK inhibitor (SKI-II), ASD core phenotype and phenotype-related protein levels of P-CREB, P-CaMKII, and GAD1 were improved, as shown via behavioral and molecular biology experiments. Moreover, by using SKI-II, we found proteins related to the development and function of neuron synapses, including ERK, caspase-3, Bax, Bcl-2, CDK5 and KCNQ2 in BTBR mice, whose levels were restored to protein levels comparable to those in the controls. Elucidating the possible mechanism of ApoA-I in ASD-associated phenotypes will provide new ideas for studies on the etiology of ASD.
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