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Friday, August 10, 2012

Morphological Evidence of an Altered Process of Synaptic Transcytosis in Adult Rats Exposed to Ethanol

The effects of ethanol exposure on synaptic structure were investigated in the nucleus of solitary tract (NST) in rats, using the horse-radish peroxidase (HRP) method.

ight-week-old experimental rats were allowed free access to a liquid diet containing ethanol for 3 weeks, while controls were given an isocaloric diet. Some of the control and experimental animals were given an injection of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated with HRP (WGA-HRP) into the vagus nerve toward the end of the treatment period. After the treatment, the neuropil region of the NST was examined under an electron microscope.

We observed that a few terminals were characterized by deep indentation of axodendritic membranes into the post-synaptic neurons. This appeared to be similar to that commonly seen in exocrine glands. Interestingly, the indented portion often contained various sizes of vacuoles and flattened cisternae. HRP-reaction product (RP) transported to terminals was recognized easily as an electron-dense lysosomal substance when lead citrate staining was omitted. Terminals containing HRP-RP also revealed quite a similar structure with indentation of axodendritic membranes as described earlier. The results are considered to confirm that terminals forming ‘apocrine-like structures’ observed in the ethanol-fed animals with no injection of WGA-HRP originate from afferent fibers of the vagus nerve.

The present study suggests the possibility that the alteration of the synaptic structure induced by ethanol exposure can lead to the neuronal transcytosis of materials including proteins which is different from the normal vesicular exocytosis involved in chemical synaptic transmission.

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