Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Causes Adverse Cardiac Extracellular Matrix Changes and Dysfunction in Neonatal Mice

  • Van K. Ninh
  • Elia C. El Hajj
  • Alan J. Mouton
  • Jason D. GardnerEmail author


Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe condition of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and is associated with congenital heart defects. However, more subtle defects such as ventricular wall thinning and cardiac compliance may be overlooked in FASD. Our studies focus on the role of cardiac fibroblasts in the neonatal heart, and how they are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). We hypothesize that PAE affects fibroblast function contributing to dysregulated collagen synthesis, which leads to cardiac dysfunction. To investigate these effects, pregnant C57/BL6 mice were intraperitoneally injected with 2.9 g EtOH/kg dose to achieve a blood alcohol content of approximately 0.35 on gestation days 6.75 and 7.25. Pups were sacrificed on neonatal day 5 following echocardiography measurements of left ventricular (LV) chamber dimension and function. Hearts were used for primary cardiac fibroblast isolation or protein expression analysis. PAE animals had thinner ventricular walls than saline exposed animals, which was associated with increased LV wall stress and decreased ejection fraction. In isolated fibroblasts, PAE decreased collagen I/III ratio and increased gene expression of profibrotic markers, including α-smooth muscle actin and lysyl oxidase. Notch1 signaling was assessed as a possible mechanism for fibroblast activation, and indicated that gene expression of Notch1 receptor and downstream Hey1 transcription factor were increased. Cardiac tissue analysis revealed decreased collagen I/III ratio and increased protein expression of α-smooth muscle actin and lysyl oxidase. However, Notch1 signaling components decreased in whole heart tissue. Our study demonstrates that PAE caused adverse changes in the cardiac collagen profile and a decline in cardiac function in the neonatal heart.


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder Fetal alcohol syndrome Heart Fibrosis Notch1 Collagen 



Saving Tiny Hearts Society (JDG); T32AA007577-19 (Patricia E. Molina); 1F31HL134263 (ECE).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyLSU Health Sciences CenterNew OrleansUSA

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