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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1988 Jun;12(3):440-9.

Effect of prenatal exposure to ethanol on the development of cerebral cortex: I. Neuronal generation.

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Department of Anatomy, UMDNJ-SOM, Piscataway 08854.


Prenatal exposure to ethanol causes profound disruptions in the development of the cerebral cortex. Therefore, the effect of in utero ethanol exposure on the generation of neurons was determined. Pregnant rats were fed a liquid diet in which ethanol constituted 37.5% of the total caloric content (Et) or pair-fed an isocaloric control diet (Ct) from gestational day (GD) 6 to the day of birth. The time of origin of cortical neurons was determined in the mature pups of females injected with [3H]thymidine on one day during the period from GD 10 to the day of birth. The brains were processed by standard autoradiographic techniques. Ethanol exposure produced multiple defects in neuronal ontogeny. The period of generation was 1-2 days later for Et-treated rats than for rats exposed prenatally to either control diet. Moreover, the generation period was 1-2 days longer in Et-treated rats. The numbers of neurons generated on a specific day was altered; from GD 12-19 significantly fewer neurons were generated in Et-treated rats than in Ct-treated rats, whereas after GD 19 more neurons were born. The distribution of neurons generated on a specific day was disrupted; most notable was the distribution of late-generated neurons in deep cortex of Et-treated rats rather than in superficial cortex as they are in controls. Cortical neurons in Et-treated rats tended to be smaller than in Ct-treated rats, particularly early generated neurons in deep cortex. The late-generated neurons in Et-treated rats were of similar size to those in Ct-treated rats despite their abnormal position in deep cortex. Neurons in Ct-treated rats tended to be rounder than those in Et-treated rats which were more polarized in the radial orientation. A proliferation index, which was based on the amount of autoradiographic signal over each labeled neuron, indicated that an additional, late surge in proliferative activity occurred in Et-treated rats on GD 20-21. The amount of [3H]thymidine incorporated each day was determined by biochemical analyses. In Ct-treated rats, incorporation increased to a maximum on GD 17 and decreased thereafter. In Et-treated rats, there were two maxima, the first on GD 18 and the second on GD 20. These data fully support the findings of the autoradiographic analyses. The present data show that neuronal generation is profoundly affected by ethanol. Such disturbances result from ethanol-induced abnormalities in neuronal proliferation and migration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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