Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Identify Alcohol Antagonists In Neural Cells

Date:
March 21, 2000
Source:
NIH-National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism
Summary:
Harvard Medical School and Veterans Administration researchers report in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that certain long-chain alcohols can block harmful effects of short-chain alcohols including ethanol (beverage alcohol) on nerve cell growth and development.

Findings have implications for preventing fetal alcohol syndrome

Harvard Medical School and Veterans Administration researchers report in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that certain long-chain alcohols can block harmful effects of short-chain alcohols including ethanol (beverage alcohol) on nerve cell growth and development. "The findings may lead eventually to medications that reduce the damaging effects of alcohol in both fetal development and in adults," said Michael Charness, M.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and Chief of Neurology, VA Boston Healthcare System.

Supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Medical Research Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, the study builds on earlier work by Dr. Charness and his colleagues that, in 1996, showed that ethanol disrupts cell adhesion mediated by the L1 cell adhesion molecule. This finding was striking because of the similarity in brain lesions between children with mutations in the gene for L1 and children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Molecular tags that protrude from nerve cell membranes and stick to similar molecules on adjacent cells, cell adhesion molecules such as L1 influence neuronal migration and the extension and bundling of neuronal processes, functions that are essential for normal human nervous system development. L1 also is believed to play a role in long-term synaptic changes that may influence learning and memory.

In today's study, Harvard Medical School Instructor of Neurology Michael Wilkemeyer, Ph.D., and Dr. Charness examined the effects of alcohols of various shapes and sizes on nerve cell adhesion. They found that relatively small alcohols (including ethanol) with fewer than five carbons inhibit cell adhesion with increasing potency but that the effect abruptly ceases between four-carbon butanol and five-carbon pentanol. "Butanol interferes with L1 but pentanol and larger alcohols have no effect. That leads us to believe that there must be some kind of pocket into which only the small alcohols fit," said Dr. Charness.

Shape of the alcohol molecule may be even more important than size in regulating the interaction, the researchers claim. By adjusting the shape of butanol, they rendered that molecule inactive (i.e., with no effect on cell-cell adhesion), suggesting a specific lock-and-key interaction between the alcohol molecule and its receptor. "Our analysis indicates that the alcohol target discriminates among alcohols of equivalent molecular volume and is exquisitely sensitive to molecular shape," Dr. Wilkemeyer said.

In exploring potential antagonists of this lock-and-key interaction, the research team tried the longer chain alcohols identified as inactive on cell-cell adhesion. When they introduced long-chain alcohols such as pentanol and octanol, nerve cells again clumped together in a complete reversal of ethanol's antiadhesive effects. Octanol also completely reversed the antiadhesive effects of ethanol on nerve cells in culture that were exposed to growth factor BMP-7.

"This fascinating work brings us closer to understanding and possibly preventing at least some neurotoxic effects of alcohol," said NIAAA director Enoch Gordis, M.D. "The field will watch closely to see whether what works in the laboratory also works in animal models."

The leading preventable cause of mental retardation in the United States, FAS affects about one in 1,000 U.S. infants and about 6 percent of the offspring of alcoholic mothers. Children with FAS exhibit growth retardation, malformations of the brain, face, and heart, and behavioral disorders while children with less severe fetal alcohol effects exhibit neurobehavioral deficits. In addition, alcohol abuse can lead to neurological disorders in adults, disrupting memory and learning. NIAAA supports research into several mechanisms whereby alcohol may damage the developing and the adult brain. Today's report describes a specific, nonenzymatic antagonist of ethanol in neural cells.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH-National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NIH-National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. "Researchers Identify Alcohol Antagonists In Neural Cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000321080352.htm>.
NIH-National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. (2000, March 21). Researchers Identify Alcohol Antagonists In Neural Cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000321080352.htm
NIH-National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism. "Researchers Identify Alcohol Antagonists In Neural Cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000321080352.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins