Ethanol exposure alters Alzheimer's-related pathology, behavior, and metabolism in APP/PS1 mice

Stephen M. Day, Stephen C. Gironda, Caitlin W. Clarke, J. Andy Snipes, Noelle I. Nicol, Hana Kamran, Warner Vaughn, Jeffrey L. Weiner, Shannon L. Macauley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Epidemiological studies identified alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), yet there is conflicting evidence on how alcohol use promotes AD pathology. In this study, a 10-week moderate two-bottle choice drinking paradigm was used to identify how chronic ethanol exposure alters amyloid-β (Aβ)-related pathology, metabolism, and behavior. Ethanol-exposed APPswe/PSEN1dE9 (APP/PS1) mice showed increased brain atrophy and an increased number of amyloid plaques. Further analysis revealed that ethanol exposure led to a shift in the distribution of plaque size in the cortex and hippocampus. Ethanol-exposed mice developed a greater number of smaller plaques, potentially setting the stage for increased plaque proliferation in later life. Ethanol drinking APP/PS1 mice also exhibited deficits in nest building, a metric of self-care, as well as increased locomotor activity and central zone exploration in an open field test. Ethanol exposure also led to a diurnal shift in feeding behavior which was associated with changes in glucose homeostasis and glucose intolerance. Complementary in vivo microdialysis experiments were used to measure how acute ethanol directly modulates Aβ in the hippocampal interstitial fluid (ISF). Acute ethanol transiently increased hippocampal ISF glucose levels, suggesting that ethanol directly affects cerebral metabolism. Acute ethanol also selectively increased ISF Aβ40, but not ISF Aβ42, levels during withdrawal. Lastly, chronic ethanol drinking increased N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) and decreased γ-aminobutyric acid type-A receptor (GABAAR) mRNA levels, indicating a potential hyperexcitable shift in the brain's excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) balance. Collectively, these experiments suggest that ethanol may increase Aβ deposition by disrupting metabolism and the brain's E/I balance. Furthermore, this study provides evidence that a moderate drinking paradigm culminates in an interaction between alcohol use and AD-related phenotypes with a potentiation of AD-related pathology, behavioral dysfunction, and metabolic impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105967
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 The Authors


  • Alcohol
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid-β
  • Brain
  • Metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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