Acute and Chronic Effects of Ethanol on Transbilayer Membrane Domains

W. Gibson Wood, Christine Gorka, Friedhelm Schroeder

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Abstract: Alcohols, including ethanol, have a specific effect on transbilayer and lateral membrane domains. Recent evidence has shown that alcohols in vitro have a greater effect on fluidity of one leaflet as compared to the other. The present study examined effects of chronic ethanol consumption on fluidity of synaptic plasma membrane (SPM) exofacial and cytofacial leaflets using trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS) labeling and differential polarized fluorometry of 1,6‐diphenyl‐1,3,5‐hexatriene (DPH). Mice were administered ethanol or a control liquid diet for 3 weeks. Animals were killed and SPM prepared. The exofacial leaflet of SPM was significantly more fluid than the cytofacial leaflet in both groups, as indicated by limiting anisotropy of DPH. However, differences between the two leaflets were much smaller in the ethanol‐treated group. Ethanol at concentrations seen clinically had a greater effect in vitro on the more fluid exofacial leaflet. This asymmetric effect of ethanol was significantly diminished in the exofacial leaflet of the ethanol‐treated mice. Chronic ethanol consumption has a specific effect on membranes. Membrane functions that may be regulated by asymmetry of fluidity and lipid distribution may be altered by chronic ethanol consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1925-1930
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1989


  • Chronic ethanol consumption
  • Fluidity asymmetry
  • Fluorescence probes
  • Membrane domains
  • Synaptic plasma membranes


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