Potential associations among alteration of salivary mirnas, saliva microbiome structure, and cognitive impairments in autistic children

Marco Ragusa, Maria Santagati, Federica Mirabella, Giovanni Lauretta, Matilde Cirnigliaro, Duilia Brex, Cristina Barbagallo, Carla Noemi Domini, Mariangela Gulisano, Rita Barone, Laura Trovato, Salvatore Oliveri, Gino Mongelli, Ambra Spitale, Davide Barbagallo, Cinzia Di Pietro, Stefania Stefani, Renata Rizzo, Michele Purrello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent evidence has demonstrated that salivary molecules, as well as bacterial populations, can be perturbed by several pathological conditions, including neuro-psychiatric diseases. This relationship between brain functionality and saliva composition could be exploited to unveil new pathological mechanisms of elusive diseases, such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We performed a combined approach of miRNA expression profiling by NanoString technology, followed by validation experiments in qPCR, and 16S rRNA microbiome analysis on saliva from 53 ASD and 27 neurologically unaffected control (NUC) children. MiR-29a-3p and miR-141-3p were upregulated, while miR-16-5p, let-7b-5p, and miR-451a were downregulated in ASD compared to NUCs. Microbiome analysis on the same subjects revealed that Rothia, Filifactor, Actinobacillus, Weeksellaceae, Ralstonia, Pasteurellaceae, and Aggregatibacter increased their abundance in ASD patients, while Tannerella, Moryella and TM7-3 decreased. Variations of both miRNAs and microbes were statistically associated to different neuropsychological scores related to anomalies in social interaction and communication. Among miRNA/bacteria associations, the most relevant was the negative correlation between salivary miR-141-3p expression and Tannerella abundance. MiRNA and microbiome dysregulations found in the saliva of ASD children are potentially associated with cognitive impairments of the subjects. Furthermore, a potential cross-talking between circulating miRNAs and resident bacteria could occur in saliva of ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6203
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2020


  • ASD
  • Correlations
  • Dysbiosis
  • Illumina
  • MicroRNA
  • Nanostring
  • Oral cavity
  • Oral microbiota
  • TaqMan assays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Potential associations among alteration of salivary mirnas, saliva microbiome structure, and cognitive impairments in autistic children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this