Impact of alcohol exposure on neural development and network formation in human cortical organoids

Adams, J.W., Negraes, P.D., Truong, J. et al. Impact of alcohol exposure on neural development and network formation in human cortical organoids. Mol Psychiatry (2022).


Prenatal alcohol exposure is the foremost preventable etiology of intellectual disability and leads to a collection of diagnoses known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Alcohol (EtOH) impacts diverse neural cell types and activity, but the precise functional pathophysiological effects on the human fetal cerebral cortex are unclear.

Here, we used human cortical organoids to study the effects of EtOH on neurogenesis and validated our findings in primary human fetal neurons. EtOH exposure produced temporally dependent cellular effects on proliferation, cell cycle, and apoptosis. In addition, we identified EtOH-induced alterations in post-translational histone modifications and chromatin accessibility, leading to impairment of cAMP and calcium signaling, glutamatergic synaptic development, and astrocytic function. Proteomic spatial profiling of cortical organoids showed region-specific, EtOH-induced alterations linked to changes in cytoskeleton, gliogenesis, and impaired synaptogenesis. Finally, multi-electrode array electrophysiology recordings confirmed the deleterious impact of EtOH on neural network formation and activity in cortical organoids, which was validated in primary human fetal tissues.

Our findings demonstrate progress in defining the human molecular and cellular phenotypic signatures of prenatal alcohol exposure on functional neurodevelopment, increasing our knowledge for potential therapeutic interventions targeting FASD symptoms.

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