The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 33: 239 - 244 (1989)

Vol 33, Issue 2

Effect of prenatal exposure to alcohol on membrane-bound enzymes during astrocyte development in vivo and in primary culture

Published: 1 June 1989

C Guerri, A Marqués, M Sancho-Tello and J Renau-Piqueras

Instituto de Investigaciones Citológicas (Centro Asociado del CSIC), Valencia, Spain.


In the present work we have analyzed the effect of prenatal ethanol exposure on the activity of several glial marker and functional enzymes during the development of astrocytes isolated from rat brain as well as in primary culture. The activity of marker enzymes glutamine synthetase and butylcholinesterase showed no differences between isolated astrocytes from 15 and 70 day old control rats. However, the activity of the membrane-bound enzymes (Na+K)ATPase and 5'-nucleotidase was higher in astrocytes from 70 day old control rats than in those from 15 day old animals. Although the pattern found in astrocytes from alcohol-exposed rats was similar to that of controls, the levels of activity of the enzymes were lower in alcoholic than in control animals. When control astrocytes in primary culture were used, the activity of (Na+K)ATPase and 5'-nucleotidase increased throughout the entire culture period. In contrast, the maximal activity of glutamine synthetase was found at 7 days of culture. Ethanol also induced a decrease in the activity of all enzymes, which was more evident at the end of the culture period. These results indicate that the activity of the enzyme markers analyzed increased mainly during the first weeks of life and remained constant after this period. By contrast, the membrane-bound enzymes studied showed a progressive increase with age. In conclusion, since these astrocyte enzymes are important in the regulation of several neuronal functions through the control of the composition of extracellular fluid, the effect of ethanol on their activities could explain some of the neuronal alterations reported in children and animals exposed to ethanol during development.

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