, Volume 48, Issue 11, pp 1059-1068
Date: 31 Aug 2013

Prenatal Ethanol Exposure Increases Brain Cholesterol Content in Adult Rats

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Fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe expression of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Although alterations in fetal and neonate brain fatty acid composition and cholesterol content are known to occur in animal models of FASD, the persistence of these alterations into adulthood is unknown. To address this question, we determined the effect of prenatal ethanol exposure on individual phospholipid class fatty acid composition, individual phospholipid class mass, and cholesterol mass in brains from 25-week-old rats that were exposed to ethanol during gestation beginning at gestational day 2. While total phospholipid mass was unaffected, phosphatidylinositol and cardiolipin mass was decreased 14 and 43 %, respectively. Exposure to prenatal ethanol modestly altered brain phospholipid fatty acid composition, and the most consistent change was a significant 1.1-fold increase in total polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), in the n-3/n-6 ratio, and in the 22:6n-3 content in ethanolamine glycerophospholipids and in phosphatidylserine. In contrast, prenatal ethanol consumption significantly increased brain cholesterol mass 1.4-fold and the phospholipid to cholesterol ratio was significantly increased 1.3-fold. These results indicate that brain cholesterol mass was significantly increased in adult rats exposed prenatally to ethanol, but changes in phospholipid mass and phospholipid fatty acid composition were extremely limited. Importantly, suppression of postnatal ethanol consumption was not sufficient to reverse the large increase in cholesterol observed in the adult rats.