Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a spectrum of developmental disorders caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. Neuronal loss or neurodegeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) is one of the most devastating features in FASD. It is imperative to delineate the underlying mechanisms to facilitate the treatment of FASD. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is a hallmark and an underlying mechanism of many neurodegenerative diseases, including ethanol-induced neurodegeneration. Mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) responds to ER stress and has been identified as a protein upregulated in response to ethanol exposure during the brain development. To investigate the role of MANF in ethanol-induced neurodegeneration and its association with ER stress regulation, we established a 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 exacerbated 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, using an animal model of ER-stress-induced neurodegeneration, we demonstrated that MANF deficiency potentiated tunicamycin (TM)-induced ER stress and neurodegeneration. A whole transcriptome RNA sequencing also supported the functionality of MANF in ER stress modulation and revealed targets that may mediate the ER stress-buffering capacity of MANF. Collectively, these results suggest that MANF is a neurotrophic factor that can protect neurons against ethanol-induced neurodegeneration by ameliorating ER stress.

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Published in Neurobiology of Disease, v. 148, article 105216.

Copyright © 2020. Elsevier Inc.

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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This work is supported by grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) ( AA017226 and AA015407 ) and NIH training grant ( T32 DK007778 ). It is also supported in part by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Office of Research and Development [Biomedical Laboratory Research and Development: Merit review ( BX001721 )].