Ethanol-induced swelling in neonatal rat primary astrocyte cultures

Michael Aschner, Jeffrey W. Allen, Lysette A. Mutkus, Cheng Chen Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We tested the hypothesis that astrocytes swell in response to ethanol (EtOH) exposure. The experimental approach consisted of an electrical impedance method designed to measure cell volume. In chronic experiments, EtOH (100 mM) was added to the culture media for 1, 3, or 7 days. The cells were subsequently exposed for 15 min to isotonic buffer (122 mM NaCl) also containing 100 mM EtOH. Subsequently, the cells were washed and exposed to hypotonic buffer (112 mM NaCl) containing 100 mM mannitol. Chronic exposure to EtOH led to a marked increase in cell volume compared with control cells. Specific anion cotransport blockers, such as SITS, DIDS, furosemide, or bumetanide, when simultaneously added with EtOH to hyponatremic buffer, failed to reverse the EtOH-induced effect on swelling. In acute experiments, confluent neonatal rat primary astrocyte cultures were exposed to isotonic media (122 mM NaCl) for 15 min, followed by 45-min exposure to hypotonic media (112 mM NaCl, mimicking in vivo hyponatremic conditions associated with EtOH withdrawal) in the presence of 0-100 mM EtOH. This exposure led to a concentration-dependent increase in cell volume. Combined, these studies suggest that astrocytes exposed to EtOH accumulate compensatory organic solutes to maintain cell volume, and that in response to hyponatremia and EtOH withdrawal their volume increases to a greater extent than in cells exposed to hyponatremia alone. Furthermore, the changes associated with EtOH are osmotic in nature, and they are not reversed by anion cotransport blockers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-226
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 11 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Astrocyte
  • Cell volume
  • Ethanol
  • In vitro
  • Swelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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