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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1993 Oct;17(5):1014-21.

Vulnerability of cerebellar granule cells to alcohol-induced cell death diminishes with time in culture.

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Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City.


This study examined the effects of alcohol exposure on the viability of cerebellar granule cells in culture. Continuous alcohol exposure, starting 1 day after the cultures were established, significantly reduced granule cell numbers, even with a single day of exposure to an alcohol concentration as low as 100 mg/dl. The depletion of cerebellar granule cells by alcohol was concentration-dependent (greater loss of cells at higher alcohol concentrations) and duration-dependent (greater loss of cells at longer exposure durations). The loss of granule cells also depended on the number of days the granule cells were in culture before alcohol exposure. Alcohol was significantly more effective in reducing the cell numbers of newly established granule cell cultures (1 day in vitro) compared with older cultures (4 or 7 days in vitro). Cell cycle analysis established that the cerebellar granule cells did not proliferate in culture, indicating that alcohol exposure did not reduce cell numbers by interfering with cell proliferation in this system. Instead, alcohol-induced killing of the granule cells was the most likely mechanism to account for the depletion of granule cells in vitro. Granule cell cultures are a useful in vitro model system to study the cellular and molecular aspects of neuronal cell depletion associated with fetal alcohol exposure. The potential role of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor in this alcohol-induced neuronal cell death is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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