• Chronic Ethanol;
  • NMDA;
  • AMDA;
  • Kainate;
  • Glutamine

The present study examined the effects of chronic ethanol exposure on the expression of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), α-amino-3 hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxalone (AMPA) and kainate receptor subunit proteins in rat cortical neuronal cultures grown in media containing 2 mM (high) or 0.1 mM (low) glutamine. lmmunoblot analysis of NMDA (NR1, NR2A, NR2B, and NR2D), AMPA (GluR1 and GluR2/3), and kainate (GluR6/7) subunit polypeptides in 3-, 5-, 8-, 10-, and 12 day-old-cultures showed that NMDA receptor subunits NR1, NR2A, and NR2B and AMPA receptor subunits GluR2/3 progressively increased as a function of time, whereas levels of NMDA subunit NR2D were high at day 3 and progressively declined to barely detectable levels by day 12. Levels of AMPA subunit GluR1 and the kainate subunit GluR6/7 remained stable throughout the time course. Replacing the culture media with low glutamine media at culture day 5 did not alter the levels of subunit proteins measured at culture days 9 and 13. However, exposure of low glutamine cultures to 100 mM ethanol for 4 days (starting at culture day 9) significantly increased the levels of NMDA receptor subunits (NR1, NR2A, and NR2B) and AMPA receptor subunits (GluR1 and GluR2/3), but had no effect upon kainate receptor subunits (GluR6/7) or the synapse-associated proteins synapsin I and PSD-95. In contrast, chronic ethanol did not alter the levels of any of these subunit proteins in cells grown in high glutamine. These data demonstrate that under certain experimental conditions, prolonged exposure to ethanol upregulates NMDA and AMPA receptor subunit proteins, but has no effect upon kainate receptor subunit proteins. Because we have previously shown that acute ethanol can inhibit NMDA and AMPA, but not kainate, receptor function in these cultures, the increase in subunit expression likely reflects an adaptive response to the inhibitory effects of ethanol and suggests that both NMDA and AMPA receptors may play an important role in adaptation of the CNS to chronic ethanol.