Ethanol is a major health concern, with neurotoxicity occurring after both in utero exposure and adult alcohol abuse. Despite a large amount of research, the mechanism(s) underlying the neurotoxicity of ethanol remain unknown. One of the cellular aspects that has been investigated in relationship to the neuroteratogenicity and neurotoxicity of ethanol is the maintenance of calcium homeostasis. Studies in neuronal cells and other cells have shown that ethanol can alter intracellular calcium levels and affect voltage and receptor-operated calcium channels, as well as G protein-mediated calcium responses. Despite increasing evidence of the important roles of glial cells in the nervous systems, few studies exist on the potential effects of ethanol on calcium homeostasis in these cells. This brief review discusses a number of reported effects of alcohol on calcium responses that may be relevant to astrocytes' functions.
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