Ethanol inhibition of aspartyl-asparaginyl-beta-hydroxylase in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: potential link to the impairments in central nervous system neuronal migration

Author(s): de la Monte SM, Tong M, Carlson RI, Carter JJ, Longato L, et al.


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol and associated with hypoplasia and impaired neuronal migration in the cerebellum. Neuronal survival and motility are stimulated by insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF), whose signaling pathways are major targets of ethanol neurotoxicity. To better understand the mechanisms of ethanol-impaired neuronal migration during development, we examined the effects of chronic gestational exposure to ethanol on aspartyl (asparaginyl)-beta-hydroxylase (AAH) expression, because AAH is regulated by insulin/IGF and mediates neuronal motility. Pregnant Long-Evans rats were pair-fed isocaloric liquid diets containing 0, 8, 18, 26, or 37% ethanol by caloric content from gestation day 6 through delivery. Cerebella harvested from postnatal day 1 pups were used to examine AAH expression in tissue, and neuronal motility in Boyden chamber assays. We also used cerebellar neuron cultures to examine the effects of ethanol on insulin/IGF-stimulated AAH expression, and assess the role of GSK-3beta-mediated phosphorylation on AAH protein levels. Chronic gestational exposure to ethanol caused dose-dependent impairments in neuronal migration and corresponding reductions in AAH protein expression in developing cerebella. In addition, prenatal ethanol exposure inhibited insulin and IGF-I-stimulated directional motility in isolated cerebellar granule neurons. Ethanol-treated neuronal cultures (50mMx96h) also had reduced levels of AAH protein. Mechanistically, we showed that AAH protein could be phosphorylated on Ser residues by GSK-3beta, and that chemical inhibition of GSK-3beta and/or global Caspases increases AAH protein in both control- and ethanol-exposed cells. Ethanol-impaired neuronal migration in FASD is associated with reduced AAH expression. Because ethanol increases the activities of both GSK-3beta and Caspases, the inhibitory effect of ethanol on neuronal migration could be mediated by increased GSK-3beta phosphorylation and Caspase degradation of AAH protein.

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