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The Fecal Microbiome and Metabolome of Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, a Severe Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Alterations to the gut microbiome have been reported between children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and typically developing (TD) children. Characterizing these differences has led to the proposal of new treatments for ASD, such as probiotic interventions and fecal matter transplants. However, no study to date has characterized the gut microbiome or metabolome in Pitt Hopkins syndrome (PTHS), a severe ASD with a high incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances such as constipation. Here, we surveyed the gut microbiome and metabolome in a cohort of PTHS individuals and their unaffected parents. We focused our analysis on Clostridium bolteae, a microbe previously associated with ASD known to chemically modify bile acids in the gut. PTHS individuals carry a higher load of C. bolteae than their parents as well as both ASD and non-ASD individuals from the American Gut Project cohort. Specific metabolites were associated with PTHS, including bile acids and sphingosines. With a metadata reanalysis tool, we found that PTHS-associated metabolites have previously been identified in inflammatory bowel disease and obesity patients. These results suggest microbial involvement in PTHS, but further research must be performed to clarify the exact mechanisms through which microbes may act. Furthermore, new associations between PTHS-specific metabolites and other conditions may lead to additional therapeutic options for PTHS individuals. IMPORTANCE GI disturbances in ASD such as severe constipation can be medically significant and often require medication. This is especially true for individuals with PTHS, suggesting that the gut microbiome may be involved in PTHS's pathology. Revealing associations between specific gut microbes and PTHS may allow the development of new therapeutics or the application of existing therapeutics to ease day-to-day challenges encountered by PTHS individuals. In this study, we characterized an association between C. bolteae and PTHS, in addition to metabolites linked to both PTHS and C. bolteae. We also identified other microbiome-involved medical conditions where PTHS-associated metabolites have been isolated. Utilizing common metabolites to identify conditions with similar phenotypes may suggest new therapeutic options for GI-related symptoms.

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