Effects of early postnatal ethanol intubation on GABAergic synaptic proteins.
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Fetal alcohol syndrome includes brain damage from aberrant synaptogenesis, altered cell-cell signaling and blunted plasticity in surviving neurons. Distortion of neurotrophic GABA signals by ethanol-mediated allosteric modulation of GABA(A) receptor (GABA(A)R) activity during brain maturation may play a role. In this regard, early postnatal binge-like ethanol treatment on postnatal days (PDs) 4-9 acutely inhibits whole cell GABA(A)R Cl(-) current and subsequently blunts GABA(A)R function in medial septum/diagonal band (MS/DB) neurons and cerebellar Purkinje cells [Dev. Brain Res. 130 (2001) 25-40; Brain Res. 810 (1998) 100-113; Brain Res. 832 (1999) 124-135]. In light of these functional changes, we hypothesized that ethanol treatment also would decrease levels of proteins important for assembly of GABAergic synapses in maturing brain. To test this relationship, binge-like ethanol intubation was administered to rat pups on PDs 4-9 producing peak blood ethanol concentrations in the range of 302.5+/-6.3 mg/dl. GABAergic synaptic proteins were measured in brain tissue on PDs 13-14 when GABA(A)R currents in individual MS/DB neurons are reduced, but those of cerebellar Purkinje neurons are not yet altered [Dev. Brain Res. 130 (2001) 25-40; Brain Res. 810 (1998) 100-113; Brain Res. 832 (1999) 124-135]. Surprisingly, ethanol did not decrease protein levels of GABA(A)R alpha1/beta2 subunits, GAD(67) or gephyrin in MS/DB at this time when whole cell recordings indicate GABA(A)R function is impaired in acutely dissociated individual neurons. However, in cerebellum where ethanol treated Purkinje cell GABA(A)R function remains normal on PDs 13-14 [Brain Res. 832 (1999) 124-135], reduced levels of several GABAergic synaptic proteins including: GAD(67), GABA(A)R alpha1 subunit, ClC-2 a voltage-gated Cl(-) channel, synaptotagmin a synaptic vesicle protein, and N-cadherin, a synapse associated cell adhesion molecule, were found. These results indicate that binge-like ethanol exposure differentially decreases GABAergic synaptic proteins in some brain areas in a pattern that does not parallel reductions in GABA(A)R function of individual neurons that survive this ethanol insult.