Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and glial integrity : S100B, cytokines and kynurenine metabolism – effects of medication
Background: Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show a marked temporal variability in their display of symptoms and neuropsychological performance. This could be explained in terms of an impaired glial supply of energy to support neuronal activity. Method: We pursued one test of the idea with measures of a neurotrophin reflecting glial integrity (S100B) and the influences of 8 cytokines on the metabolism of amino-acids, and of tryptophan/kynurenine to neuroprotective or potentially toxic products that could modulate glial function. Serum samples from 21 medication-naïve children with ADHD, 21 typically-developing controls, 14 medicated children with ADHD and 7 healthy siblings were analysed in this preliminary exploration of group differences and associations. Results: There were no marked group differences in levels of S100B, no major imbalance in the ratios of pro- to antiinflammatory interleukins nor in the metabolism of kynurenine to toxic metabolites in ADHD. However, four trends are described that may be worthy of closer examination in a more extensive study. First, S100B levels tended to be lower in ADHD children that did not show oppositional/conduct problems. Second, in medicated children raised interleukin levels showed a trend to normalisation. Third, while across all children the sensitivity to allergy reflected increased levels of IL-16 and IL-10, the latter showed a significant inverse relationship to measures of S100B in the ADHD group. Fourthly, against expectations healthy controls tended to show higher levels of toxic 3-hydroxykynurenine (3 HK) than those with ADHD. Conclusions: Thus, there were no clear signs (S100B) that the glial functions were compromised in ADHD. However, other markers of glial function require examination. Nonetheless there is preliminary evidence that a minor imbalance of the immunological system was improved on medication. Finally, if lower levels of the potentially toxic 3 HK in ADHD children were confirmed this could reflect a reduction of normal pruning processes in the brain that would be consistent with delayed maturation (supported here by associations with amino-acid metabolism) and a reduced metabolic source of energy.