• Chronic Alcohol Consumption;
  • Uncoupling Proteins;
  • Apoptosis;
  • Neurodegeneration


Chronic alcohol consumption leads to oxidative stress in a variety of cells, especially in brain cells because they have a reduced oxidative metabolism of alcohol. Uncoupling proteins (UCPs) are anion channels of the inner mitochondrial membrane, which can decouple internal respiration. “Mild uncoupling” of the mitochondrial respiratory chain leads to a reduced production of free radicals (reactive oxygen species) and a reduction in oxidative cell stress. The extent to which chronic alcohol consumption regulates UCP-2 and -4 in the brain is still unknown.


We examined the effects of a 12-week 5% alcohol diet in the brain of male Wistar rats (= 34). Cerebral gene and protein expression of UCP-2, -4, as well as Bcl-2, and the release of cytochrome c out of the mitochondria were detected by real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analysis. The percentage of degenerated cells was determined by Fluoro–Jade B staining of brain slices.


Brains of rats with a chronic alcohol diet showed an increased gene and protein expression of UCP-2 and -4. The expression of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 in the brain of the alcohol-treated animals was decreased significantly, whereas cytochrome c release from mitochondria was increased. In addition increased neurodegeneration could be demonstrated in the alcohol-treated animals.


Chronic alcohol consumption leads to a cerebral induction of UCP-2 and -4 with a simultaneous decrease in the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2, cytochrome c release from mitochondria and increased neurodegeneration. This study reveals a compensatory effect of UCP-2 and -4 in the brain during chronic alcohol consumption.