Ethanol-induced changes in neuronal membrane order. An NMR study

Robert J. Hitzemann, Harold E. Schueler, Cindy Graham-Brittain, George P. Kreishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The effects of ethanol-d6 on the lipid matrix of rat brain neuronal membranes were investigated by delayed Fourier transform 1H-NMR techniques. At 24°C, neither 0.1 nor 0.2% (v/v) ethanol-d6 measurably affected the methylene resonance intensity. However, 0.4 and 1.0% ethanol-d6 increased resonance intensity, 35 and 51%, respectively. With increasing temperature, a decrease in resonance intensity for 0.1% ethanol-d6 was observed reaching a maximum of 20% at 42°C. Furthermore, increasing temperature attenuated the increases in resonance intensity seen with 0.4 and 1.0% ethanol-d6. At 24°C, no concentration of ethanol-d6 had a significant effect on the choline methyl resonance. However, with increasing temperature both 0.1 and 0.2% ethanol-d6 decreased this resonance's intensity. The intensity of the terminal methyl resonance was increased in a dose related fashion by ethanol-d6, reaching a maximum of +41% at 1.0% (24°C). Increasing temperature attenuated this effect, but no concentration of ethanol-d6 significantly decreased resonance intensity. The increases and decreases in resonance intensity induced by ethanol-d6 are interpreted in terms of a decrease and an increase in membrane order ** ** Order (and disorder) are used here in the general sense and refer to the mobility of the membrane lipids. Since mobility in natural membranes is primarily a reflection of hindered or restricted movement and not viscosity, the term 'order' is the more appropriate designation. Increases in the spectral intensity of the membrane lipid NMR resonances are associated with a decrease in order. This is, however, not the only interpretation of such data (see James [30])., respectively. It is proposed that ethanol-d6 exerts two effects on neuronal membranes, an ordering effect on the membrane surface and a disordering effect in the membrane interior. A higher enthalpy of ethanol binding to the surface as compared to the interior of the membrane leads to an attenuation of the ethanol disordering effect with increasing temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalBBA - Biomembranes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 24 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • (Neuronal membrane)
  • Ethanol
  • Membrane order
  • NMR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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