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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Moderate Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Reduces Plasticity and Alters NMDA Receptor Subunit Composition in the Dentate Gyrus

Although it is well documented that heavy consumption of alcohol during pregnancy impairs brain development, it remains controversial whether moderate consumption causes significant damage. Using a limited access, voluntary consumption paradigm, we recently demonstrated that moderate prenatal alcohol exposure (MPAE) is associated with dentate gyrus-dependent learning and memory deficits that are manifested in adulthood.

Here, we identified a novel mechanism that may underlie this effect of MPAE. We found that MPAE mice exhibit deficits in NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP) in the dentate gyrus. Further, using semiquantitative immunoblotting techniques, we found that the levels of GluN2B subunits were decreased in the synaptic membrane, while levels of C2′-containing GluN1 and GluN3A subunits were increased, in the dentate gyrus of MPAE mice.

These data suggest that MPAE alters the subunit composition of synaptic NMDARs, leading to impaired NMDAR-dependent LTP in the dentate gyrus.

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