Different Patterns of Regional Purkinje Cell Loss in the Cerebellar Vermis as a Function of the Timing of Prenatal Ethanol Exposure in an Ovine Model.

Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology and Michael E. DeBakey Institute, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA, 77843.
Neurotoxicology and Teratology (Impact Factor: 3.22). 11/2012; DOI: 10.1016/
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Studies in rat models of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders have indicated that the cerebellum is particularly vulnerable to ethanol-induced Purkinje cell loss during the third trimester-equivalent, with striking regional differences in vulnerability in which early-maturing regions in the vermis show significantly more loss than the late-maturing regions. The current study tested the hypothesis that the sheep model will show similar regional differences in fetal cerebellar Purkinje cell loss when prenatal binge ethanol exposure is restricted to the prenatal period of brain development equivalent to the third trimester and also compared the pattern of loss to that produced by exposure during the first trimester-equivalent. Pregnant Suffolk sheep were assigned to four groups: first trimester-equivalent saline control group, first trimester-equivalent ethanol group (1.75g/kg/day), third trimester-equivalent saline control group, and third trimester-equivalent ethanol group (1.75g/kg/day). Ethanol was administered as an intravenous infusion on 3 consecutive days followed by a 4-day ethanol-free interval, to mimic a weekend binge drinking pattern. Animals from all four groups were sacrificed and fetal brains were harvested on gestation day 133. Fetal cerebellar Purkinje cell counts were performed in an early-maturing region (lobules I-X) and a late-maturing region (lobules VIc-VII) from mid-sagittal sections of the cerebellar vermis. As predicted, the third trimester-equivalent ethanol exposure caused a significant reduction in the fetal cerebellar Purkinje cell volume density and Purkinje cell number in the early-maturing region, but not in the late-maturing region. In contrast, the first trimester-equivalent ethanol exposure resulted in significant reductions in both the early and late-maturing regions. These data confirmed the previous findings in rat models that third trimester-equivalent prenatal ethanol exposure resulted in regionally-specific Purkinje cell loss in the early-maturing region of the vermis, and further demonstrated that first trimester ethanol exposure caused more generalized fetal cerebellar Purkinje cell loss, independent of the cerebellar vermal region. These findings support the idea that prenatal ethanol exposure in the first trimester interferes with the genesis of Purkinje cells in an unselective manner, whereas exposure during the third trimester selectively kills post-mitotic Purkinje cells in specific vermal regions during a vulnerable period of differentiation and synaptogenesis.

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