Ethanol acutely inhibits ionotropic glutamate receptor-mediated responses and long-term potentiation in the developing CA1 hippocampus. Academic Article uri icon


  • Developmental ethanol (EtOH) exposure damages the hippocampus, causing long-lasting alterations in learning and memory. Alterations in glutamatergic synaptic transmission and plasticity may play a role in the mechanism of action of EtOH. This signaling is fundamental for synaptogenesis, which occurs during the third trimester of human pregnancy (first 12 days of life in rats).Acute coronal brain slices were prepared from 7- to 9-day-old rats. Extracellular and patch-clamp electrophysiological recording techniques were used to characterize the acute effects of EtOH on alpha-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate receptor (AMPAR)- and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated responses and long-term potentiation (LTP) in the CA1 hippocampal region.Ethanol (40 and 80 mM) inhibited AMPAR- and NMDAR-mediated field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs). EtOH (80 mM) also reduced AMPAR-mediated fEPSPs in the presence of an inhibitor of Ca2+ permeable AMPARs. The effect of 80 mM EtOH on NMDAR-mediated fEPSPs was significantly greater in the presence of Mg2+. EtOH (80 mM) neither affected the paired-pulse ratio of AMPAR-mediated fEPSPs nor the presynaptic volley. The paired-pulse ratio of AMPAR-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents was not affected either, and the amplitude of these currents was inhibited to a lesser extent than that of fEPSPs. EtOH (80 mM) inhibited LTP of AMPAR-mediated fEPSPs.Acute EtOH exposure during the third-trimester equivalent of human pregnancy inhibits hippocampal glutamatergic transmission and LTP induction, which could alter synapse refinement and ultimately contribute to the pathophysiology of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010