Ethanol (EtOH) exposure during a period comparable to the third trimester in human results in obvious neurotoxicity in the developing hippocampus and persistent deficits in hippocampal neurogenesis. Dexmedetomidine (DEX), a highly selective α-2-adrenergic agonist has been demonstrated to restore the impaired neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity in the dentate gyrus (DG) that follows neurological insult. However, the protective roles of DEX in the EtOH-induced deficits of postnatal neurogenesis in the hippocampus are still unknown.


Mice were pretreated with DEX prior to EtOH exposure to determine its protective effects on impaired postnatal hippocampal neurogenesis. Six-day-old neonatal mice were treated with DEX (125 μg/kg) or saline, followed by EtOH at a total of 5 g/kg or an equivalent volume of saline on P7. Immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence were used to evaluate the neurogenesis and activated microglia in the DG. Quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR) was utilized to assess the expression of inflammatory factors in the hippocampus.


DEX pretreatment attenuated the inhibition of EtOH-mediated hippocampal neurogenesis and the reduction of hippocampal neural precursor cells (NPCs). We further confirmed that DEX pretreatment reversed the EtOH-induced microglia activation in the DG as well as the upregulation of the hippocampal TNFα, MCP-1, IL-6, and IL-1β mRNA levels.


Our findings indicate that DEX pretreatment protects against EtOH-mediated inhibition of hippocampal neurogenesis in postnatal mice and reverses EtOH-induced neuroinflammation via repressing microglia activation and the expression of inflammatory cytokines.

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