Cerebellar Purkinje neurons developing in culture were treated chronically with 30 mM (140 mg%; 3-11 days in vitro) ethanol to study the actions of prolonged ethanol exposure on responses to exogenous application of AMPA, a selective agonist at the AMPA subtype of ionotropic glutamate receptors. There was no consistent difference between control and chronic ethanol-treated neurons in resting membrane potential, input resistance, or the amplitude or duration of the membrane responses to AMPA (1 or 5 microM applied by brief microperfusion) as measured using the nystatin patch method of whole cell recording. In additional studies, the Ca2+ signal to AMPA was examined using the Ca2+ sensitive dye fura-2. The mean peak Ca2+ signal elicited by 5 microM AMPA was enhanced in the dendritic region (but not the somatic region) of chronic ethanol-treated Purkinje neurons compared to control neurons. In contrast, there was no difference between control and chronic ethanol-treated neurons in the peak amplitude of the Ca2+ signal to 1 microM AMPA, whereas the recovery of the Ca2+ signals was more rapid in both somatic and dendritic regions of ethanol-treated neurons. Resting Ca2+ levels in the somatic and dendritic regions were similar between control and ethanol-treated neurons. These data show that the membrane and Ca2+ responses to AMPA in Purkinje neurons are differentially affected by prolonged ethanol exposure during development. Moreover, chronic ethanol exposure produces a selective enhancement of AMPA-evoked dendritic Ca2+ signals under conditions reflecting intense activation (i.e., 5 microM AMPA), whereas both somatic and dendritic Ca2+ signals are attenuated with smaller levels of activation (i.e., 1 microM AMPA). Because Ca2+ is an important regulator of numerous intracellular functions, chronic ethanol exposure during development could produce widespread changes in the development and function of the cerebellum.
Copyright 1999 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.