Critical periods to ethanol exposure during early neuroembryogenesis in the chick embryo: cholinergic neurons

Chaya Brodie, Antonia Vernadakis

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42 Scopus citations


The acute and chronic effects of ethanol on cholinergic neuronal expression were studied in the chick embryo during early neuroembryogenesis using choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) activity as a cholinergic marker. Ethanol administered to embryos in ovo on day 1 (E1) produced a 30% decrease in ChAT activity, while ethanol administration on day 3 elicited no significant change. Similar effects were produced by ethanol on ChAT activity in the spinal cord. The decrease in ChAT activity in both brain and spinal cord was not accompanied by a significant change in protein content. Of significance were our findings with chronic ethanol treatment: in embryos treated from E1 to E5 and sacrified at E6, ChAT activity was decreased. In contrast, in embryos treated similarly but sacrified at E8 ChAT activity was increased. These findings establish that the critical period of cholinergic neuronal sensitivity to ethanol is confined to E1. Moreover, the increase in ChAT activity observed after chronic ethanol treatment indicates that the developing neurons have the capability to adapt to ethanol. This apparent adaptation results in overcompensation, as reflected by the increase in ChAT activity. Whether this overcompensation is at the expanse of another neuronal population remains to be investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-228
Number of pages6
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Nov 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Cholinergic neuronal expression
  • Critical period
  • Embryonic development
  • Ethanol neurosensitivity
  • Neuronal adaptation


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