Neurochemical, but not behavioral, deviations in the offspring of rats following prenatal or paternal inhalation exposure to ethanol.
Possible effects on offspring from parental ethanol (64175) exposure were studied in male and female Sprague-Dawley-rats exposed at levels of 16000 and 10000 parts per million (ppm). Rats were exposed by inhalation for 7 hours a day; males were exposed for 6 weeks, while females were exposed through gestation. Exposed rats were mated with untreated rats. Litters were fostered to unexposed dams within 16 hours after birth. Offspring were tested for neuromotor coordination, activity level, and learning ability. At 21 days of age, pups were analyzed for neurochemical changes. Exposure to the higher concentration produced slight maternal toxicity as evidenced by a reduction in feed intake. No effect was noted on fertility and weight gain was not significantly affected by either concentration. No change in water consumption nor in litter size, number of dead pups, or length of pregnancy was noted. Neuromuscular abilities were similar to those in control rats. There were significant changes in biochemical effects as evidenced in noradrenergic, serotonergic, and m-enkephalinergic brain systems. As the enkephalins are widely distributed neurotransmitters and neurohormones found in the brain, spinal cord, pituitary, adrenal medulla, autonomic nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract, changes in their concentration may influence many functions. The authors conclude that inhalation exposure to ethanol does not produce behavioral teratogenic effects in rats, but does produce neurochemical alterations.