Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 108-121

First online:

GSK3β in Ethanol Neurotoxicity

  • Jia LuoAffiliated withDepartment of Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a significant public health problem and may result in a wide range of adverse outcomes for the child. The developing central nervous system (CNS) is particularly susceptible to ethanol toxicity. Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) have a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and neurological impairments. FASD currently represents the leading cause of mental retardation in North America ahead of Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Ethanol exposure during development causes multiple abnormalities in the brain such as permanent loss of neurons, ectopic neurons, and alterations in synaptogenesis and myelinogenesis. These alcohol-induced structural alterations in the developing brain underlie many of the behavioral deficits observed in FASD. The cellular and molecular mechanisms of ethanol neurotoxicity, however, remain unclear. Ethanol elicits cellular stresses, including oxidative stress and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), a multifunctional serine/threonine kinase, responds to various cellular stresses. GSK3β is particularly abundant in the developing CNS, and regulates diverse developmental events in the immature brain, such as neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation, migration, and survival. Available evidence indicates that the activity of GSK3β in the CNS is affected by ethanol. GSK3β inhibition provides protection against ethanol neurotoxicity, whereas high GSK3β activity/expression sensitizes neuronal cells to ethanol-induced damages. It appears that GSK3β is a converging signaling point that mediates some of ethanol’s neurotoxic effects.


Alcohol Apoptosis Development Fetal alcohol syndrome Neurodegeneration