Publication Date



International Journal of Molecular Sciences


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are leading causes of neurodevelopmental disability but cannot be diagnosed early in utero. Because several microRNAs (miRNAs) are implicated in other neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders, the effects of EtOH exposure on the expression of these miRNAs and their target genes and pathways were assessed. In women who drank alcohol (EtOH) during pregnancy and non-drinking controls, matched individually for fetal sex and gestational age, the levels of miRNAs in fetal brain-derived exosomes (FB-Es) isolated from the mothers’ serum correlated well with the contents of the corresponding fetal brain tissues obtained after voluntary pregnancy termination. In six EtOH-exposed cases and six matched controls, the levels of fetal brain and maternal serum miRNAs were quantified on the array by qRT-PCR. In FB-Es from 10 EtOH-exposed cases and 10 controls, selected miRNAs were quantified by ddPCR. Protein levels were quantified by ELISA. There were significant EtOH-associated reductions in the expression of several miRNAs, including miR-9 and its downstream neuronal targets BDNF, REST, Synapsin, and Sonic hedgehog. In 20 paired cases, reductions in FB-E miR-9 levels correlated strongly with reductions in fetal eye diameter, a prominent feature of FASDs. Thus, FB-E miR-9 levels might serve as a biomarker to predict FASDs in at-risk fetuses.


brain development, fetal alcohol syndrome, miR-9, fetal eye, exosomes


PMID: 38892014



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