Chronic gestational exposure to ethanol impairs insulin-stimulated survival and mitochondrial function in cerebellar neurons
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Chronic gestational exposure to ethanol has profound adverse effects on brain development. In this regard, studies using in vitro models of ethanol exposure demonstrated impaired insulin signaling mechanisms associated with increased apoptosis and reduced mitochondrial function in neuronal cells. To determine the relevance of these findings to fetal alcohol syndrome, we examined mechanisms of insulin-stimulated neuronal survival and mitochondrial function using a rat model of chronic gestational exposure to ethanol. In ethanol-exposed pups, the cerebellar hemispheres were hypoplastic and exhibited increased apoptosis. Isolated cerebellar neurons were cultured to selectively evaluate insulin responsiveness. Gestational exposure to ethanol inhibited insulin-stimulated neuronal viability, mitochondrial function, Calcein AM retention (membrane integrity), and GAPDH expression, and increased dihydrorosamine fluorescence (oxidative stress) and pro-apoptosis gene expression (p53, Fas-receptor, and Fas-ligand). In addition, neuronal cultures generated from ethanol-exposed pups had reduced levels of insulin-stimulated Akt, GSK-3β, and BAD phosphorylation, and increased levels of non-phosphorylated (activated) GSK-3β and BAD protein expression. The aggregate results suggest that insulin-stimulated central nervous system neuronal survival mechanisms are significantly impaired by chronic gestational exposure to ethanol, and that the abnormalities in insulin signaling mechanisms persist in the early postnatal period, which is critical for brain development.
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