Transgenerational Transmission of the Effect of Gestational Ethanol Exposure on Ethanol Use-Related Behavior

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Abstract

Background:

Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) enhances the risk for alcoholism by increasing the propensity to consume alcohol and altering neurophysiological response to alcohol challenge. Trans-generationally transmittable genetic alterations have been implicated in these behavioral changes. To date, transgenerational transmission of PAE-induced behavioral responses to alcohol has never been experimentally investigated. Therefore, we explored the transgenerational transmission of PAE-induced behavioral effects across 3 generations.

Methods:

Pregnant Sprague Dawley dams received 1 g/kg ethanol (EtOH) or water daily on gestational days 17 through 20 via gavage, or remained untreated in their home cages. To produce second filial (F2) or F3 generations, similarly treated adult F1 or F2 offspring were mated and left undisturbed through gestation. On postnatal day (PND) 14, male and female F1, F2, and F3 offspring were tested for consumption of 5% (w/v) EtOH (in water), or water. Using the loss of righting reflex (LORR) paradigm on PND 42, F1 and F2 adolescent male offspring were tested for sensitivity to acute EtOH-induced sedation–hypnosis at 3.5 or 4.5 g/kg dose. F3 male adolescents were similarly tested at 3.5 g/kg dose. Blood EtOH concentration (BEC) was measured at waking.

Results:

EtOH exposure increased EtOH consumption compared to both water and untreated control groups in all generations. EtOH-treated group F1 and F2 adolescents displayed attenuated LORR duration compared to the water group. No attenuated LORR was observed in the F3 generation. BEC at waking corroborated with the significant LORR duration differences while also revealing differences between untreated control and water groups in F1 and F2 generations.

Conclusions:

Our results provide novel behavioral evidence attesting that late gestational moderate EtOH exposure increases EtOH intake across 3 generations and may alter sensitivity to EtOH-induced sedation–hypnosis across 2 generations.

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