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Mech Ageing Dev. 2001 Oct;122(15):1723-38.

Age-related effects of moderate alcohol consumption on GAP-43 levels in rat hippocampus.

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  • 1Neurobiology of Ageing Laboratory, N. Masera INRCA Research Department, Via Birarelli 8, 60121 Ancona, Italy.


The effects of moderate intake of ethanol and ageing were investigated on the levels of the growth-associated protein GAP-43, whose expression has been used as an indicator of axonal growth during development, regeneration and remodelling of synaptic connections. Groups of female Wistar rats (12 and 24 months of age), were alcohol-fed for one month while age-matched control groups received an isocaloric diet. A quantitative evaluation of GAP-43 was performed in hippocampus and in hippocampal selected areas in view of the vulnerability of this complex to alcohol aggression by means of two different methods, namely Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry. While the former measures total extractable GAP-43, the latter allows visualisation of in situ changes in topographical distribution of GAP-43. Western blot analysis revealed an age-dependent reduction (-47%) and an ethanol-associated increase (81%) of GAP-43 demonstrated only in the old group. Conversely, quantitative immunohistochemistry of GAP-43 in the entire hippocampus showed a non-significant ethanol-related decrement in 24-month-old rats (-30%), although the age-dependent reduction was confirmed. Ageing was associated with a decrement of GAP-43 immunostaining in CA3 stratum radiatum (CA3) and in inner molecular layer of dentate gyrus (IML). Treatment determined a decrease of GAP-43 immunostaining in adult rat CA3 and IML and no change in CA1 stratum radiatum (CA1). Our results suggest that immunohistochemistry evaluation underestimates GAP-43 levels in ethanol-treated animals possibly as a consequence of conformational changes induced by alcohol, resulting in non-targeting of the specific antibody. Western blot analysis demonstrate that although there is a reduction of GAP-43 levels in hippocampus of aged rats, this structure retain a remarkable potential to compensate for ethanol toxicity during ageing.

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