Background: In rodent and human studies, ethanol (EtOH) exposure is associated with elevated brain levels of the magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) signal representing choline-containing compounds (Cho). One interpretation of elevated brain Cho is that it is a marker of neuroinflammation, and some evidence suggests that EtOH exposure promotes neuroinflammation. This study aimed to determine whether binge EtOH exposure (intragastric 3 g/kg 25% EtOH every 8 hours for 4 days) would induce the expression of certain cytokines in blood, liver, or brain, thereby supporting the neuroinflammation hypothesis of elevated Cho.
Methods: Ten of 18 wild-type male Wistar rats (∼322 g at baseline) were exposed to EtOH and attained average blood alcohol levels of ∼315 mg/dl across 4 days. Blood for cytokine immunoassays was collected at baseline, after 5 doses of EtOH (binge), and immediately preceding euthanasia either 4 or 24 hours after the last dose of EtOH. Blood was additionally assayed for the levels of thiamine and liver enzymes; liver histopathology was performed postmortem; and tissue from liver and 6 brain regions was assayed for the potential induction of 7 cytokines.
Results: There were no group effects on the levels of thiamine or its phosphate derivatives, thiamine monophosphate or thiamine diphosphate. ANOVAs of liver enzyme levels indicated that only alkaline phosphatase (ALP) levels were higher in the EtOH group than in control group at binge; ALP elevations, however, are difficult to explain in the absence of changes in the levels of additional liver enzymes. Postmortem liver pathology provided evidence for minimal microvesicular lipidosis and portocentric fibrosis in the EtOH group. Group effects on the levels of the measured cytokines in the blood (TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, and GRO/CXCL1) were not significant. Similarly, postmortem evaluation of liver cytokines did not reveal group effects. Postmortem evaluation of the 7 cytokines in 6 brain regions (anterior cerebellar vermis, cingulate cortex, frontal cortex, hippocampus, hypothalamus, striatum) also failed to identify group effects.
Conclusions: A single 4-day bout of binge EtOH exposure alone was insufficient to induce the expression of 7 cytokines in blood, liver, or 6 brain regions of wild-type Wistar rats. Alternative interpretations for elevations in brain Cho in response to a 4-day binge EtOH treatment are therefore necessary and may include induction of cytokines not measured herein or other noninflammatory mechanisms.