In utero exposure to ethanol is deleterious to fetal brain development. Children born with the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) display a number of abnormalities, the most significant of which are central nervous system (CNS) dysfunctions, such as microencephaly and mental retardation. An interaction of ethanol with glial cells, particularly astrocytes, has been suggested to contribute to the developmental neurotoxicity of this alcohol. At low concentrations (10-100 mM) ethanol inhibits the proliferation of astroglial cells in vitro, particularly when stimulated by acetycholine through muscarinic M3receptors. Of the several signal transduction pathways activated by these receptors in astrocytes or astrocytoma cells, which are involved in mitogenic signaling, only some (e.g. protein kinase C (PKC) Î¶, p70S6 kinase) appear to be targeted by ethanol at the same low concentrations which effectively inhibit proliferation. Inhibition of astroglial proliferation by ethanol may contribute to the microencephaly seen in FAS. Â© 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
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