Forskolin delays the ethanol-induced desensitization of hypothalamic β- endorphin neurons in primary cultures

N. Boyadjieva, B. V. Reddy, D. K. Sarkar

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18 Scopus citations


Ethanol and its metabolite acetaldehyde have been shown to stimulate immunoreactive β-endorphin (IR-β-EP) secretion from hypothalamic neurons in primary cultures. Also, chronic ethanol and acetaldehyde have been shown to cause the development of tolerance and desensitization of these neurons. In this study, we determined some of the cellular events leading to desensitization of the function of β-endorphin (β-EP) secretory neurons. The fetal hypothalamic cells were treated with various doses of ethanol (25 and 50 mM) or acetaldehyde (6.25, 12.5, and 25 mM) for 6 hr or treated with these drugs at 12 hr intervals for 72 hr. Determination of IR-β-EP concentrations in the media revealed that ethanol increased IR-β-EP secretion from these cultures for 12 hr; after this period, the cultured cells did not respond to ethanol. Acetaldehyde stimulated IR-β-EP secretion from this culture for a period of 48 hr, but the IR-β-EP secretory response to acetaldehyde reduced gradually with time during the first 48-hr period and reached the basal level st 72 hr. The desensitization of β-EP neurons 12 hr after treatment with alcohol did not seem to be related to the loss of viable cells, because chronic ethanol exposures did not produce any effect on cell viability. However, reduced IR-β-EP secretory response to acetaldehyde with time was associated with the time-dependent increase in cell death. Pretreatment of cultures with a cAMP analog, forskolin, increased the activity of functional β-EP neurons and delayed the ethanol desensitization effects on these neurons. Pretreatment of forskolin did not delay the acetaldehyde desensitization of β-EP neurons, but protected these cells from acetaldehyde toxicity. These results suggest that (i) chronic treatment with ethanol desensitizes β-EP-secreting neurons due to reduced cellular functions and (ii) chronic acetaldehyde reduces β-EP neurotransmission due to cell death. Furthermore, data suggest for the first time that cAMP pretreatments delay the ethanol-induced desensitization of opioid neurons and partly protect against the neurotoxic action of acetaldehyde on opioid neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-482
Number of pages6
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Cell Death
  • Chronic Acetaldehyde
  • Chronic Alcohol
  • Hypothalamic β-Endorphin Neurons
  • cAMP

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