Estrogen neuroprotection against the neurotoxic effects of ethanol withdrawal: Potential mechanisms

M. E. Jung, M. B. Gatch, J. W. Simpkins

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Ethanol withdrawal (EW) produces substantial neurotoxic effects, whereas estrogen is neuroprotective. Given observations that both human and nonhuman female subjects often show less impairment following EW, it is reasonable to hypothesize that estrogens may protect females from the neurotoxic effects of ethanol. This article is based on the assumption that the behavioral deficits seen following EW are produced in part by neuronal death triggered by oxidative insults produced by EW. The EW leads to activation of protein kinase C, especially PKCε, which subsequently triggers apoptotic down-stream events such as phosphorylation of nuclear factor-κB (NFκB) complex. On phosphorylation, active NFκB translocates to the nucleus, binds to DNA, and activates caspases, which trigger DNA fragmentation and apoptosis. In contrast, estrogens are antioxidant, inhibit overexpression of PKCε, and suppress expression of NFκB and caspases. Estrogen treatment reduces the behavioral deficits seen during EW and attenuates molecular signals of apoptosis. The effects of ethanol and estrogen on each step in the signaling cascade from ethanol exposure to apoptosis are reviewed, and potential mechanisms by which estrogen could produce neuronal protection against the neurotoxicity produced by EW are identified. These studies serve as a guide for continuing research into the mechanisms of the neuroprotective effects of estrogen during EW and for the development of potential estrogen-based treatments for male and female alcoholics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-22
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Estrogen
  • Ethanol withdrawl
  • Neuroprotection
  • Oxidative stress
  • Protein kinase C


Dive into the research topics of 'Estrogen neuroprotection against the neurotoxic effects of ethanol withdrawal: Potential mechanisms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this