Background: Most of the previously published data suggest a role for oxidative or nitrosative stress in ethanol-induced nervous system damage. Moreover, ethanol is able to impair learning abilities in adult mammalian brain, a process suggested to be directly related to hippocampal neurogenesis. Ebselen, a synthetic compound with antioxidant properties, is able to prevent ethanol-induced impairment of neurogenesis in adult rats. The aim of the present work was to further demonstrate the ability of ebselen to prevent biochemical alterations, and preserve long-term potentiation (LTP) and learning abilities, in the hippocampus of chronic alcoholic adult rats.
Methods: Biochemical markers of oxidative stress (glutathione and malondialdehyde) were assayed in hippocampi of control rats and animals fed a liquid alcoholic diet (Lieber-De Carli) supplemented or not with ebselen. Long-term potentiation and hippocampal-dependent tests were studied in all animal groups.
Results: The hippocampal concentrations of glutathione and malondialdehyde were decreased and increased, respectively, in alcohol-treated animals, and did not differ from those of the control and the alcohol+ebselen groups. Long-term potentiation in hippocampal slices from ethanol-treated animals was prevented, when compared with controls, and occurred with a similar profile in control animals and in the alcohol+ebselen groups. Learning ability was tested with the Morris water maze test. Escape latencies were higher in ethanol-treated rats than in control animals or the ones treated with ethanol+ebselen.
Conclusions: The results herein strongly suggest that oxidative mechanisms may underlie the hippocampal effects of ethanol in adult rats, in view of the protective effect of ebselen.