Biphasic Effects of Ethanol Exposure on Waste Metabolites Clearance in the CNS

Yiming Cheng, Xiaotang Ma, Kevin D. Belfield, James Haorah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We have shown that the effects of low-dose ethanol promote the clearance of waste metabolites, such as amyloid-beta (Aβ) proteins, from the brain through the perivascular space (PVS). We demonstrated that dilative reactivity of arterial smooth muscle and endothelial cells regulate this clearance. These findings indicate the importance of blood-brain barrier (BBB) transvascular clearance of large size metabolites from the central nervous system (CNS), where the lymphatic clearance system is absent. We next examined the contrasting effects of acute low-dose and chronic moderate ethanol exposure on BBB-associated perivascular clearance. We injected a high molecular weight fluorescent dye into the interstitial space or directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Bio-distribution of this tracer was then examined in different brain regions by multiphoton imaging and whole brain tissue section scanning. Ethanol-induced molecular/cellular mechanisms that drive the increase or decrease in movement of the fluorescent tracer were correlated to BBB integrity and arterial vessel reactivity. We found that activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) under low-dose ethanol conditions with a shift to activation of inducible NOS (iNOS) under chronic high ethanol exposure conditions, which appeared to regulate these contrasting effects. We validated these observations by qualitative and quantitative investigation of eNOS, iNOS, BBB integrity, and perivascular clearance of waste metabolites. We concluded that the effects of low-dose ethanol increased the diffusive movement of waste metabolites via eNOS-derived NO, which increased the arterial endothelial-smooth muscle cell dilative reactivity without affecting BBB integrity, whereas a prolonged induction of iNOS under chronic ethanol exposure conditions caused oxidative damage of the arterial endothelial-smooth muscle layers resulting in cerebral amyloid-like angiopathy. This led to dysfunction of the BBB, dilative reactivity, and impaired waste metabolites movement from the interstitial space or subarachnoid space (SAS) through perivascular clearance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3953-3967
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)


  • BBB
  • Ethanol
  • Free radical
  • Perivascular clearance
  • eNOS
  • iNOS


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