Journal of Neurocytology

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 391–401

Proliferation and death of cultured fetal neocortical neurons: effects of ethanol on the dynamics of cell growth


DOI: 10.1023/A:1015013609424

Cite this article as:
Jacobs, J.S. & Miller, M.W. J Neurocytol (2002) 30: 391. doi:10.1023/A:1015013609424


Neuronal number in the mature CNS is determined by the balance of cell proliferation and death. The effects of ethanol on cell proliferation and death were examined in primary cultures of neocortical neurons derived from 16-day-old rat fetuses. The cells were treated with ethanol (0 or 400 mg/dl) and examined for (1) immunohistochemical identity, (2) cell cycle kinetics using a cumulative bromodeoxyuridine labeling technique, (3) viable cell number via a trypan blue assay, and (4) the incidence of cell death with terminal deoxy-nucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) and caspase 3 immunhistochemistry. After two days in culture, most (>85%) cells expressed a neuron-specific antigen(s) whether or not ethanol was added to the culture medium. Ethanol affected the proliferation of the cultured cells, e.g., the length of the cell cycle was greater in the ethanol-treated cells than in controls. The number of trypan blue-negative (viable) cells was profoundly decreased by ethanol exposure. This decrease was accompanied by increases in the frequencies of TUNEL- and caspase 3-positive cells and of cells exhibiting nuclear condensations. Thus, ethanol decreases the number of viable cells in vitro by slowing cell proliferation and increasing the incidence of cell death. The expression of the death indices in untreated cultures is most consistent with a single (apoptotic) pathway of cell death, rather than simultaneous apoptotic and necrotic modes of death. Furthermore, it appears that ethanol initiates an apoptotic death among cultured cortical neurons.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuroscience ProgramUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neuroscience and PhysiologyState University of New York—Upstate Medical UniversitySyracuseUSA;
  3. 3.Research ServiceVeterans Affairs Medical CenterSyracuseUSA

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