Effects of Ethanol on Concentration and Acyl Group Composition of Acidic Phospholipids

  • C. Alling
  • L. Gustavsson
Part of the FIDIA Research Series book series (FIDIA, volume 4)


Ethanol exposure causes changes in the lipid composition of biological membranes. Such findings are, however, inconsistent among species, among subcellular fractions, and in relation to duration and dose of ethanol exposure. Changes in lipid concentrations as well as disturbed acyl group patterns have been attributed to an adaptation of the membranes to the fluidizing effect of ethanol. It was recently shown that the concentration of acidic phospholipids was increased in brains from ethanol exposed animals (Ailing et al.; 1983, Sun and Sun, 1983, Alling et al., 1984a; Sun et al., 1984). Previously, Lee et al. (1980) had found that the turnover of PtdSer and PtdIns was enhanced in ethanol tolerant animals. Another study has also indicated that the fatty acid pattern was more disturbed in PtdSer than in other phospholipids (Harris et al., 1984) following ethanol exposure. Taken together, these discoveries open up new vistas for research on ethanol effects on brain membrane because acidic lipids seem to be especially important for the function of membrane proteins. Best known is the strong relationship between Na+, K+-ATPase activity and sulphatide concentration (Karlsson, 1982). Evidence has been presented favouring a role for PtdSer for the opiate receptor function (Abood and Hoss, 1975; Abood and Takeda, 1976; Abood et al., 1978). The molecular species of PtdSer containing docosahexaenoic acid [22:6(n-3)] were especially important since removal of that fatty acid caused a fall in opiate binding. In addition, it has been claimed that muscarinic receptors depend on acidic phospholipids like PtdSer, PtdH, and Ptdlns but not on neutral phospholipids (Aronstam et al., 1977). GABA uptake is stimulated by PtdSer both when the endogenous PtdSer was increased via the base exchange reaction (De Medio et al., 1977, 1980) and when it was added to synaptosome preparations (Chweh and Leslie, 1982). There is also reasonable evidence for a role for PtdSer in the glutamate receptor function (Foster et al., 1982). An ethanol modulating action on these receptors (Hoffman et al., 1982; Charness et al., 1983) may therefore be due to the environmental acidic phospholipids. The finding that the acidic lipid phosphatidylethanol is pathologically formed in rat organs during ethanol exposure (Ailing et al., 1984a; Benthin et al., 1985) stimulated a more extensive exploration of the acidic phospholipids. This report focuses on the acidic phospholipids in rat organs and in human platelets after ethanol exposure.


Fatty Acid Composition Ethanol Exposure Fatty Acid Pattern Brain Membrane Acidic Phospholipid 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Alling
    • 1
  • L. Gustavsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept of Psychiatry and NeurochemistryUniversity of LundSweden

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