Alcohol-induced changes in the developing cerebellum. Ultrastructural and quantitative analysis of neurons in the cerebellar cortex

Folia Neuropathol. 2012;50(4):397-406. doi: 10.5114/fn.2012.32374.


Maternal ethanol consumption during pregnancy may cause foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Our experiments of ethanol-treated female rats were based on the FAS model in humans; therefore, the results obtained may help explain the clinical mechanism of the disease development. The ultrastructural examination of the cerebellar cortex of ten-day-old rat pups of ethanol-treated dams during pregnancy (group IA), pregnancy and lactation (group IIA), and lactation (group IIIA) revealed that alcohol administration leads to a delayed maturation of Purkinje cells. This was most strongly manifested in the pups of dams treated with ethanol during pregnancy and lactation. Moreover, this study showed degenerative changes in Purkinje cells as well as in granular layer cells in all experimental groups. There was a difference in the ultrastructural picture of both types of dying cells, which might result from different time frame of their sensitivity to ethanol administration. The quantitative analysis showed the most pronounced decrease in the density of Purkinje cells in the posterior superior fissure of cerebellar cortex in the pups of dams treated with ethanol during pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / toxicity*
  • Cerebellar Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebellar Cortex / ultrastructure*
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / pathology*
  • Purkinje Cells / drug effects
  • Purkinje Cells / ultrastructure
  • Rats


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol