Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Jia Luo


Heavy ethanol use causes neurodegeneration manifested by neuronal loss and dysfunction. It is becoming imperative to delineate the underlying mechanism to promote the treatment of ethanol-induced neurodegeneration. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is a hallmark and an underlying mechanism of many neurodegenerative diseases. This study aims to investigate the role of ER stress in ethanol-induced neurodegeneration. In experimental design, adult mice were exposed to binge ethanol drinking by daily gavage for 1, 5, or 10 days and the response of ER stress was examined. We found the induction of ER stress appeared at 5 days and remained at 10 days. Moreover, the induction of ER stress was accompanied by an increase in neurodegeneration. With cell culture, we demonstrated that ethanol exposure resulted in neuronal apoptosis and that blocking ER stress by sodium phenylbutyrate (4-PBA) abolished ethanol-induced neuronal apoptosis, suggesting that ER stress contributes to ethanol-induced neurodegeneration.

Mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) responds to ER stress and has been identified as a protein upregulated in ethanol-exposed developmental mouse brains. To investigate its implication in ethanol-induced neurodegeneration, we established a central nervous system (CNS)-specific Manf knockout mouse model and examined the effects of MANF deficiency on ethanol-induced neuronal apoptosis and ER stress using a third-trimester equivalent mouse model. We found MANF deficiency worsened ethanol-induced neuronal apoptosis and ER stress and that blocking ER stress abrogated the harmful effects of MANF deficiency on ethanol-induced neuronal apoptosis. Moreover, a whole transcriptome RNA sequencing supported the involvement of MANF in ER stress modulation and revealed candidates that may mediate the ER stress-buffering capacity of MANF. Collectively, these data suggest that MANF is neuroprotective against ethanol-induced neurodegeneration via ameliorating ER stress.

Because MANF is a neurotrophic factor, we also examined the effects of MANF deficiency on neurogenesis. We observed that MANF deficiency increased neurogenesis in the subgranular zone of the hippocampal dentate gyrus and subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles in the mouse brain. Mechanistically, this finding was supported by a decrease of cell cycle inhibitors (p15 and p27), an increase of G2/M marker (phospho-histone H3), and an increase of neural progenitor markers (Sox2 and NeuroD1) in the brain of conditional Manf knockout mice. Our in vitro studies demonstrated that the gain-of-function of MANF inhibited cell cycle progression, whereas the loss-of-function of MANF promoted cell cycle progression. Taken together, these data suggest that MANF may affect the process of neurogenesis through altering cell cycle progression.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

NIH: AA017226 and AA015407 2016-2019

NIH training grant T32: DK007778 2017-2018