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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1997 Sep;21(6):1108-20.

Nerve growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor protect rat cerebellar granule cells in culture against ethanol-induced cell death.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Iowa Medical College, Iowa City 52242, USA.


Neuronal cell loss is one of the most debilitating effects of fetal ethanol exposure. Cultures of cerebellar granule cells are a useful model to investigate ethanol neurotoxicity, because ethanol depletes cell numbers in these cultures, which also occurs in vivo. The primary goal of the present study was to identify and characterize agents that can ameliorate the ethanol-induced cell death that occurs in this culture system. Growth factors, such as nerve growth factor (NGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) can prevent neuronal degeneration after toxic insult in various experimental paradigms. These growth factors were investigated in the current study to determine whether or not they can mitigate ethanol-induced death of cerebellar granule cells in culture. Results indicate that NGF and bFGF significantly reduced the ethanol-induced cell loss. Both the NGF- and bFGF-mediated neuroprotection required protein and RNA synthesis, because actinomycin D (RNA synthesis inhibitor) and cycloheximide (protein synthesis inhibitor) blocked their neuroprotective effects. In addition to its neuroprotective effect, bFGF also had a neurotrophic effect and could enhance cell survival in the absence of ethanol exposure. NGF did not have a neurotrophic effect. Neither EGF nor IGF-I was neuroprotective, although the latter did have a substantial neurotrophic effect. In conclusion, bFGF and NGF have long been recognized for their role in enhancing neuronal cell survival and differentiation. This study suggests that these growth factors can also provide neuroprotection against ethanol-induced cell death.

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