Publication Date



Frontiers in Neuroscience



Mitochondrial dysfunction is postulated to be a central event in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). People with the most severe form of FASD, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) are estimated to live only 34 years (95% confidence interval, 31 to 37 years), and adults who were born with any form of FASD often develop early aging. Mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage, hallmarks of aging, are postulated central events in FASD. Ethanol (EtOH) can cause mtDNA damage, consequent increased oxidative stress, and changes in the mtDNA repair protein 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase-1 (OGG1). Studies of molecular mechanisms are limited by the absence of suitable human models and non-invasive tools.


We compared human and rat EtOH-exposed fetal brain tissues and neuronal cultures, and fetal brain-derived exosomes (FB-Es) from maternal blood. Rat FASD was induced by administering a 6.7% alcohol liquid diet to pregnant dams. Human fetal (11–21 weeks) brain tissue was collected and characterized by maternal self-reported EtOH use. mtDNA was amplified by qPCR. OGG1 and Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) mRNAs were assayed by qRT-PCR. Exosomal OGG1 was measured by ddPCR.


Maternal EtOH exposure increased mtDNA damage in fetal brain tissue and FB-Es. The damaged mtDNA in FB-Es correlated highly with small eye diameter, an anatomical hallmark of FASD. OGG1-mediated mtDNA repair was inhibited in EtOH-exposed fetal brain tissues. IGF-1 rescued neurons from EtOH-mediated mtDNA damage and OGG1 inhibition.


The correlation between mtDNA damage and small eye size suggests that the amount of damaged mtDNA in FB-E may serve as a marker to predict which at risk fetuses will be born with FASD. Moreover, IGF-1 might reduce EtOH-caused mtDNA damage and neuronal apoptosis.


mitochondria, brain development, FASD, exosomes, mtDNA damage, IGF-1, mtDNA repair, 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase-1 (OGG1)


PMID: 37621718



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.