Brain growth during ethanol-induced hypoplasia

Drug Alcohol Depend. 1987 Nov 30;20(3):279-86. doi: 10.1016/0376-8716(87)90038-x.


The inhibition of fetal brain growth resulting from in utero ethanol exposure may impair central nervous system (CNS) development and thereby result in mental retardation. Studies of ethanol-induced brain hypoplasia using chick embryos have shown that the early development of the chick is significantly growth inhibited by a single dose of ethanol (1.0 g/kg) given at the start of incubation (day 0). However, this level of ethanol exposure has been reported to have no effect on chick weight measured at hatching, suggesting that the weights of ethanol-treated chicks were regained during their development. The present experiments were undertaken to determine the biochemical changes associated with the varying growth rates believed to occur in the alcohol-treated embryos. The results indicated that between days 5 and 8 of development, the rates of DNA and protein synthesis (measured as radioactive thymidine and leucine incorporation, respectively) were inhibited by ethanol. The growth inhibition was highly correlated with blood alcohol content and there were associated increases in brain prostaglandin E (PGE) levels relative to vehicle-treated embryos. Further, there was a significant, inverse correlation between brain cyclic AMP content and individual brain weight. By day 10, the ethanol-treated embryos remained smaller than controls but their rates of DNA and protein synthesis were comparable to those of control animals. The normal rates of synthesis observed on day 10 appeared to correlate with clearance of the ethanol dose and with restoration of normal brain levels of PGE relative to 10-day vehicle-dosed embryos.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Dinoprostone
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Hydroxyprostaglandin Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostaglandins E / metabolism
  • Radioimmunoassay


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Prostaglandins E
  • DNA
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Hydroxyprostaglandin Dehydrogenases
  • Leucine
  • Dinoprostone