Developmental immunotoxicity of ethanol in an extended one-generation reproductive toxicity study

Arch Toxicol. 2013 Feb;87(2):323-35. doi: 10.1007/s00204-012-0940-1. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


The susceptibility of developing immune system to chemical disruption warrants the assessment of immune parameters in reproductive and developmental testing protocols. In this study, a wide range of immune endpoints was included in an extended one-generation reproduction toxicity study (EOGRTS) design to determine the relative sensitivity of immune and developmental parameters to ethanol (EtOH), a well-known developmental toxicant with immunomodulatory properties. Adult Wistar rats were exposed to EtOH via drinking water (0, 1.5, 4, 6.5, 9, 11.5 and 14 % (w/v EtOH)) during premating, mating, gestation and lactation and continuation of exposure of the F(1) from weaning until killed. Immune assessments were performed at postnatal days (PNDs) 21, 42 and 70. Keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH)-specific immune responses were evaluated following subcutaneous immunizations on PNDs 21 and 35. EtOH exposure affected innate as well as adaptive immune responses. The most sensitive immune parameters included white blood cell subpopulations, ConA-stimulated splenocyte proliferation, LPS-induced NO and TNF-α production by adherent splenocytes and KLH-specific immune responses. Most parameters showed recovery after cessation of EtOH exposure after weaning in the 14 % exposure group. However, effects on LPS-induced NO and TNF-α production by adherent splenocytes and KLH-specific parameters persisted until PND 70. The results demonstrate the relative sensitivity to EtOH of especially functional immune parameters and confirm the added value of immune parameters in the EOGRTS. Furthermore, this study identified an expanded KLH-specific parameter set and LPS-induced NO and TNF-α production by adherent splenocytes as valuable parameters that can provide additional information on functional immune effects.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / toxicity*
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Hemocyanins / immunology
  • Hemocyanins / pharmacology
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Immunity, Humoral / drug effects
  • Immunity, Humoral / immunology
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Leukocytes / pathology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Toxicity Tests
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Water Supply


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Ethanol
  • Hemocyanins
  • keyhole-limpet hemocyanin