Prenatal alcohol exposure alters expression of neurogenesis-related genes in an ex vivo cell culture model.
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Prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to long-lasting changes in functional and genetic programs of the brain, which may underlie behavioral alterations seen in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Aberrant fetal programming during gestational alcohol exposure is a possible mechanism by which alcohol imparts teratogenic effects on the brain; however, current methods used to investigate the effects of alcohol on development often rely on either direct application of alcohol in vitro or acute high doses in vivo. In this study, we used our established moderate prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) model, resulting in maternal blood alcohol content of approximately 20 mM, and subsequent ex vivo cell culture to assess expression of genes related to neurogenesis. Proliferating and differentiating neural progenitor cell culture conditions were established from telencephalic tissue derived from embryonic day (E) 15-17 tissue exposed to alcohol via maternal drinking throughout pregnancy. Gene expression analysis on mRNA derived in vitro was performed using a microarray, and quantitative PCR was conducted for genes to validate the microarray. Student's t tests were performed for statistical comparison of each exposure under each culture condition using a 95% confidence interval. Eleven percent of genes on the array had significantly altered mRNA expression in the prenatal alcohol-exposed neural progenitor culture under proliferating conditions. These include reduced expression of Adora2a, Cxcl1, Dlg4, Hes1, Nptx1, and Vegfa and increased expression of Fgf13, Ndn, and Sox3; bioinformatics analysis indicated that these genes are involved in cell growth and proliferation. Decreased levels of Dnmt1 and Dnmt3a were also found under proliferating conditions. Under differentiating conditions, 7.3% of genes had decreased mRNA expression; these include Cdk5rap3, Gdnf, Hey2, Heyl, Pard6b, and Ptn, which are associated with survival and differentiation as indicated by bioinformatics analysis. This study is the first to use chronic low to moderate PAE, to more accurately reflect maternal alcohol consumption, and subsequent neural progenitor cell culture to demonstrate that PAE throughout gestation alters expression of genes involved in neural development and embryonic neurogenesis.Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.