Milbocker KA, Smith IF, Brengel EK, LeBlanc GL, Roth TL, Klintsova AY. Exercise in Adolescence Enhances Callosal White Matter Refinement in the Female Brain in a Rat Model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Cells. 2023; 12(7):975. https://doi.org/10.3390/cells12070975
A total of 1 in 20 infants born annually are exposed to alcohol prenatally, which disrupts neurodevelopment and results in several disorders categorized under the umbrella term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Children and adolescents affected by FASD exhibit delayed maturation of cerebral white matter, which contributes to deficits in executive function, visuospatial processing, sensory integration, and interhemispheric communication. Research using animal models of FASD have uncovered that oligoglia proliferation, differentiation, and survival are vulnerable to alcohol teratogenesis in the male brain due in part to the activation of the neuroimmune system during gestation and infancy. A comprehensive investigation of prenatal alcohol exposure on white matter development in the female brain is limited. This study demonstrated that the number of mature oligodendrocytes and the production of myelin basic protein were reduced first in the female corpus callosum following alcohol exposure in a rat model of FASD. Analysis of myelin-related genes confirmed that myelination occurs earlier in the female corpus callosum compared to their counterparts, irrespective of postnatal treatment. Moreover, dysregulated oligodendrocyte number and myelin basic protein production was observed in the male and female FASD brain in adolescence. Targeted interventions that support white matter development in FASD-affected youth are nonexistent. The capacity for an adolescent exercise intervention to upregulate corpus callosum myelination was evaluated: we discovered that volunteer exercise increases the number of mature oligodendrocytes in alcohol-exposed female rats. This study provides critical evidence that oligoglia differentiation is difficult but not impossible to induce in the female FASD brain in adolescence following a behavioral intervention.