The striatum comprises a mosaic structure of striosomal and matrix compartments. Imbalanced neuronal activity between striosomes and matrix is implicated in neurological deficits in psychomotor and limbic functions. Because patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are impaired in social communication and psychomotor function, it raises the possibility that abnormal striatal compartments may contribute to ASD pathogenesis. Here, we provide pathological evidence from human postmortem brains to support this hypothesis. Because ASD is a neurodevelopmental disease that emerges early in childhood, we analyzed juvenile and adolescent brains. Distinct patterns of PRODYNORPHIN-positive and calbindin-poor striosomes were detected in the caudate nucleus of control brains by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. By contrast, PRODYNORPHIN-positive and calbindin-poor striosomes were decreased in the caudate nucleus of young ASD brains. Moreover, calbindin, a matrix marker, was aberrantly increased in the striosomal compartment, obscuring the boundaries between calbindin-poor striosomes and calbindin-rich matrix in ASD caudate nucleus. Calbindin-positive cells were decreased in the ASD matrix compartment. Collectively, our study has uncovered for the first time that aberrant striatal compartments occur in the caudate nucleus of human ASD brains, which suggests abnormal striatal compartmentation as a pathological signature that has previously been underestimated in ASD pathogenesis.
- Basal ganglia
- Caudate nucleus