Alcohol abuse has the highest prevalence and the greatest socioeconomic impact on western societies among the abused substances. Ethanol is one of the most toxic substances for the cerebellum, acutely leading to ataxic motor behavior. The circuitry in the cerebellar cortex that enables adaptive motor responses utilizes a close interaction between Bergmann glia (BG) and neuronal elements. BGs can respond to locomotion with widespread, coordinated Ca2+ transients (""""""""flares"""""""") possibly influencing the excitability of neurons. Remarkably, not every locomotion event leads to flares, and in order to understand their function it is necessary to uncover the cellular mechanisms that link flares to behavioral context and modulate their intensity. Ethanol sensitizes GABAA receptors and reduces activation of excitatory ion channels. Chronic ethanol exposure leads to adaptation of the responsiveness of these neurochemical pathways which allows the cerebellum and brain to operate fairly normal. Withdrawal from ethanol unmasks these adaptations leading to severe tremor and other symptoms. It is not known whether ethanol has an effect on BGs despite many membrane receptors being shared among glia and neurons. To shed light on this important question, the proposed studies will use transgenic mice which express the genetically encoded Ca2+ indicator GCaMP3 selectively in all BGs, and Ca2+ responses will be analyzed with two-photon imaging while the animal is walking or resting on a linear treadmill. This approach offers the unprecedented opportunity to investigate BG function with cellular resolution over the time course of months. Our preliminary studies revealed that flares are initiated when locomotion coincides with a state of increased alertness, induced by an air puff to the flank of the animal. Preliminary in vivo pharmacological investigations support this hypothesis, suggesting that flares require activation of alpha1-adrenoceptors. Furthermore, we found that acute ethanol exposure at locomotion-relevant dosages suppresses flares reversibly. The overall goal of this proposal is to test the hypothesis that the inhibition of flares by acute ethanol exposure corresponds with ataxic motor behavior, and that during withdrawal from chronic ethanol exposure, enhancement of flares corresponds with tremor. 1), the effect of different dosages of acute ethanol injections on flares and motor coordination (rotarod, balance beam) will be investigated. In acute cerebellar slices the effect of ethanol on BG AMPA receptor currents and norepinephrine induced Ca2+ elevations will be investigated. 2), flares and tremor (EMG) will be monitored during chronic ethanol exposure and upon withdrawal. If flares are enhanced during withdrawal, it will be determined whether pharmacologically resetting flares to normal intensity will reduce tremor. Upon completion of the proposed studies the role of BG flares during normal cerebellar motor control and under the influence of ethanol will be defined in depth. The studies have the potential to lead the way towards novel, more specific treatments of ethanol withdrawal.

Public Health Relevance

Bergmann glia are an integral cellular component of the cerebellar cortex and respond to locomotion with transient Ca2+ elevations, which are inhibited by acute ethanol exposure. The proposed studies will focus on investigating the underlying mechanisms of the effect of acute and chronic ethanol on these Bergmann glia Ca2+ responses. The results from these studies may help us understand the consequences of alterations of these Ca2+ elevations for motor control, and will possibly guide the development of novel, more selective therapeutic strategies to ameliorate withdrawal from ethanol and related substances.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Neurotransporters, Receptors, and Calcium Signaling Study Section (NTRC)
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Cui, Changhai
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Johns Hopkins University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Paukert, Martin; Agarwal, Amit; Cha, Jaepyeong et al. (2014) Norepinephrine controls astroglial responsiveness to local circuit activity. Neuron 82:1263-70