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Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2005 Nov;73(11):897-903.

Prenatal alcohol exposure and early postnatal changes in the developing nerve-muscle system.

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Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.



Extensive research on prenatal alcohol exposure has proven the potent teratogenicity of this substance of abuse. Children born to alcoholic mothers are often diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Those afflicted with FAS often have muscle weakness, muscle wasting, and atrophy. This study assessed the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the developing rat neuromuscular system.


Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were injected intraperitoneally with 1.0 ml of 20% ethyl alcohol/100 gm body weight. Unexposed rats served as controls. The offspring were killed 2, 3, 4, and 5 weeks after birth, and their body weights were recorded. The tibialis anterior (TA) and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles were recovered and weighed. The TA muscles were histochemically stained by silver cholinesterase in order to study the pattern of innervation. The EDL muscles were processed and stained by hematoxylin-eosin. The number and size of the EDL muscle fibers was quantified. The sciatic nerve was also removed and stained by Swank and Davenport's method to demonstrate the myelin pattern.


Assessment at the neuromuscular junction showed a higher proportion of endplates polyneuronally innervated in the alcohol-exposed rats. The muscle weights, as well as the number and size of the muscle fibers, were significantly reduced in these animals. A light-microscopy examination of the nerve sections revealed alterations in the connectivity of myelin.


The finding that a higher proportion of endplates were polyneuronally innervated in the alcohol-exposed rats indicates that the maturation process of the neuromuscular system was delayed, thus confirming the deleterious effects of alcohol on growth and maturation of the nerve-muscle system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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