BACKGROUND: Exposure to alcohol in utero is a known cause of mental retardation. Although a certain degree of motor impairment is always associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, little is known about the neurobiological basis of the defective motor control. We have studied the striatal interneurons containing parvalbumin in a rat model of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. METHODS: Newborn rats received ethanol by inhalation from postnatal day two through six and parvalbumin striatal neurons were labeled by immunohistochemistry on postnatal day 60. The spatial distribution of parvalbumin interneurons was studied using Voronoi spatial tessellation and their dendritic trees were completely reconstructed. RESULTS: Parvalbumin interneurons of ethanol-treated animals showed a clustered spatial distribution similar to that observed in control animals. The dendritic tree of parvalbumin interneurons was significantly reduced in ethanol-treated animals, as compared with controls. CONCLUSIONS: Striatal parvalbumin interneurons are crucial components of the brain network serving motor control. Therefore, the shrinkage of their dendrites could contribute to the motor and cognitive symptoms observed in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
- Mental retardation