Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein Expression in Rat Brain and in Radial Glia Culture Is Delayed by Prenatal Ethanol Exposure


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. C. Guerri at Instituto de Investigaciones Citológicas, Amadeo de Saboya 4, 46010-Valencia, Spain.


Abstract: The alterations in astrocyte proliferation and differentiation induced by prenatal exposure to alcohol (PEA) suggest that ethanol exposure affects the radial glial cells, the main astrocytic precursors. We have investigated the effects of ethanol on the early stages of astrogliogenesis by analyzing the developmental pattern of vimentin and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) immunoreactivity and their mRNA levels during embryonic/fetal brain development and in radial glia in primary culture. GFAP appeared late in gestation and at day 5 of culture of radial glial, whereas GFAP mRNA was first detected on fetal day 15 and increased in content on fetal day 21. In contrast, the levels of vimentin and its mRNA were high at fetal day 15 but decreased on day 21. Alcohol exposure delays the appearance of GFAP and its mRNA and significantly decreases the GFAP expression in fetal brain and in primary culture of radial glial. In addition, some morphological alterations were observed in PEA glial cells in culture. These results demonstrate that astroglial precursor cells are damaged by prenatal exposure to ethanol and suggest that abnormalities in the astrogliogenesis may underlie the disruption in neuronal migration and other CNS alterations observed after prenatal ethanol exposure.