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, 32 (10), 2207-16

Interaction of Thiamine Deficiency and Voluntary Alcohol Consumption Disrupts Rat Corpus Callosum Ultrastructure

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Interaction of Thiamine Deficiency and Voluntary Alcohol Consumption Disrupts Rat Corpus Callosum Ultrastructure

Xiaohua He et al. Neuropsychopharmacology.

Abstract

The relative roles of alcohol and thiamine deficiency in causing brain damage remain controversial in alcoholics without the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Experimental control over alcohol consumption and diet are impossible in humans but can be accomplished in animal models. This experiment was designed to differentiate the separate and combined effects on the macro- and ultrastructure of the corpus callosum of thiamine deficiency and voluntary alcohol consumption. Adult male alcohol-preferring (P) rats (9 chronically alcohol-exposed and 9 water controls) received a thiamine-deficient diet for 2 weeks. There were four groups: five rats previously exposed to alcohol were treated with pyrithiamine (a thiamine phosphorylation inhibitor); five rats never exposed to alcohol were treated with pyrithiamine; four alcohol-exposed rats were treated with thiamine; and four rats never exposed to alcohol were treated with thiamine. On day 14, thiamine was restored in all 18 rats; 2 weeks later the 10 pyrithiamine-treated rats received intraperitoneal thiamine. The rats were perfused 61 days post-pyrithiamine treatment at age 598 days. Brains were dissected and weight and volumes were calculated. Sagittal sections were stained to measure white matter structures. The corpus callosum was examined using transmission electron microscopy to determine density of myelinated fibers, fiber diameter, and myelin thickness. The corpus callosum in the alcohol/pyrithiamine group was significantly thinner, had greater fiber density, higher percentage of small fibers, and myelin thinning than in the alcohol/thiamine and water/thiamine groups. Several measures showed a graded effect, where the alcohol/pyrithiamine group had greater pathology than the water/pyrithiamine group, which had greater pathology than the two thiamine-replete groups. Across all 16 rats, thinner myelin sheaths correlated with higher percentage of small fibers. Myelin thickness and axon diameter together accounted for 71% of the variance associated with percentage of small fibers. Significant abnormalities in the alcohol/pyrithiamine group and lack of abnormality in the alcohol-exposed/thiamine-replete group indicate that thiamine deficiency caused white matter damage. The graded abnormalities across the dually to singly treated animals support a compounding effect of alcohol exposure and thiamine depletion, and indicate the potential for interaction between alcohol and thiamine deficiency in human alcohol-related brain damage.

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