Decreased glutathione and elevated hair mercury levels are associated with nutritional deficiency-based autism in Oman

Nathaniel W. Hodgson, Mostafa I. Waly, Yahya M. Al-Farsi, Marwan M. Al-Sharbati, Omar Al-Farsi, Amanat Ali, Allal Ouhtit, Tianzhu Zang, Zhaohui Sunny Zhou, Richard C. Deth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic, nutrition, and environmental factors have each been implicated as sources of risk for autism. Oxidative stress, including low plasma levels of the antioxidant glutathione, has been reported by numerous autism studies, which can disrupt methylation-dependent epigenetic regulation of gene expression with neurodevelopmental consequences. We investigated the status of redox and methylation metabolites, as well as the level of protein homocysteinylation and hair mercury levels, in autistic and neurotypical control Omani children, who were previously shown to exhibit significant nutritional deficiencies in serum folate and vitamin B12. The serum level of glutathione in autistic subjects was significantly below control levels, while levels of homocysteine and S-adenosylhomocysteine were elevated, indicative of oxidative stress and decreased methionine synthase activity. Autistic males had lower glutathione and higher homocysteine levels than females, while homocysteinylation of serum proteins was increased in autistic males but not females. Mercury levels were markedly elevated in the hair of autistic subjects vs. control subjects, consistent with the importance of glutathione for its elimination. Thus, autism in Oman is associated with decreased antioxidant resources and decreased methylation capacity, in conjunction with elevated hair levels of mercury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-706
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Cobalamin
  • epigenetic
  • folic acid
  • homocysteine thiolactone
  • methionine synthase
  • neurodevelopment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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