Gestational alcohol exposure leads to a spectrum of neurological symptoms which range from severe mental retardation caused by high dose exposure, to subtle cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms caused by low-to-moderate doses. We and other investigators have demonstrated that exposure to moderate levels of alcohol throughout gestation leads to impaired neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus, although the mechanisms by which this occurs are not known. To begin to distinguish cell-intrinsic from microenvironmental contributions to impaired adult neurogenesis, we isolated neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs) from the adult SVZ of mice exposed to moderate levels of alcohol throughout gestation. We found that NSPCs isolated from fetal alcohol exposed (FAE) mice displayed reduced neurosphere formation in culture, as assessed by a serial passage neurosphere assay, and reduced neuronal differentiation upon growth factor withdrawal. These studies suggest that gestational alcohol exposure leads to long-lasting NSPC-intrinsic dysregulation, which may underlie in vivo neurogenic deficits.
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