Effects of ethanol-and choline-treated astrocytes on hippocampal neuron neurite outgrowth in vitro

Calla M. Goeke, Joel G. Hashimoto, Marina Guizzetti, Annabella Vitalone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to ethanol in utero can result in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, which may cause long-lasting cognitive and behavioral abnormalities. Preclinical studies indicate that choline ameliorates the behavioral effects of developmental alcohol exposure in rodents, and clinical studies on the effectiveness of choline, administered early in pregnancy, showed that the adverse effects of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure on postnatal growth, and cognition in human infants were mitigated. However, little is known on the mechanisms behind the effects of choline. We have previously reported that astrocyte pre-treatment with 75 mM ethanol, in vitro, reduces neurite outgrowth in hippocampal neurons co-cultured with the pre-treated astrocytes. Our in vitro system allows us to study the effects of chemicals on astrocyte functions, able to modulate neuronal development. The main objective was to test the hypothesis that choline can ameliorate the astrocyte-mediated effects of ethanol on neurite growth. In this study, we exposed primary rat cortical astrocytes to ethanol, choline, ethanol plus choline, or control conditions for 24 h. Culture media was then removed, replaced with fresh media containing no ethanol or choline treatments and primary rat hippocampal neurons were plated on top of the astrocyte monolayer and cultured for 16 h. Neurons were then stained for β-III Tubulin and neurite outgrowth was measured. Astrocyte exposure to ethanol (25, 50, and 75 mM) decreases neurite outgrowth in co-cultured hippocampal pyramidal neurons, while astrocyte treatment with choline had no effect. Astrocyte treatment with ethanol and choline in combination, however, prevented the effect of ethanol, leading to levels of neurite outgrowth similar the control condition. Choline prevents the inhibitory effect of ethanol-treated astrocytes on neurite outgrowth while not altering normal neuronal development. These results suggest a new, astrocyte-mediated mechanism by which choline ameliorates the effects of developmental alcohol exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScience Progress
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Astrocytes
  • choline
  • ethanol
  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • neurite outgrowth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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