Sara A. Hosny, Alshaymaa M. Abdelmenem, Taha Azouz, Samaa S. Kamar, Asmaa M. ShamsEldeen, Asmaa A. El-Shafei
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs communication and social interaction. This study investigated the possible beneficial effects of erythropoietin (EPO) on experimental autistic-like behaviors induced by propionic acid (PPA). Twenty-four rats were distributed into three groups: (i) control; (ii) PPA_Gp: daily injected subcutaneously with PPA for five consecutive days; PPA+EPO-Gp: injected with PPA, then received intraperitoneal injection of EPO once daily for two weeks. Behavioral changes in the rats were assessed. Specimens from the cerebellar hemispheres were subjected to histological and ultrastructure examination, immunohistochemistry for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and calbindin-D28K, and biochemical analysis for glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), malondialdehyde (MDA), gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA), and serotonin. PPA-Gp showed significant behavioral impairment, with a significant depletion in GSH-px, GABA, and serotonin and a significant increase in MDA. Histological examination revealed reduced Purkinje cell count with ultrastructural degeneration, irregularly arranged nerve fibers in the molecular layer, astrogliosis, and significantly decreased calbindin-immunostaining compared to the control. EPO protected cerebellar structure, increased Purkinje cell count, improved neuronal morphology, reduced PPA-induced autistic-like features, alleviated neuronal oxidative stress, increased intercellular antioxidant levels, and suppressed inflammation. EPO provided significant protection against PPA-induced autistic features in rats, with structural preservation of Purkinje cells.