Cellular Adaptation to Chronic Ethanol Results in Altered Compartmentalization and Function of the Scaffolding Protein RACK1

Alicia J. Vagts, Dao Yao He, Rami Yaka, Dorit Ron*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Previously, we found that acute ethanol induces the translocation of the scaffolding protein RACK1 to the nucleus. Recently, we found that nuclear RACK1 mediates acute ethanol induction of immediate early gene c-fos expression. Alterations in gene expression are thought to lead to long-term changes that ultimately contribute to the development of alcohol addiction and toxicity. Therefore, we sought to determine the effects of chronic exposure of cells to ethanol on the cellular compartmentalization of RACK1 and on c-fos messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein expression. Methods: Rat C6 glioma cells were used as the cell culture model. Immunohistochemistry was implemented to visualize the localization of RACK1 and to monitor the protein level of c-fos. Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction was used to measure c-fos mRNA levels. The Tat-protein transduction method was used to transduce recombinant Tat-RACK1 into cells as previously described. Results: Chronic exposure of cells to 200 mM ethanol for 24 and 48 hr resulted in the gradual re-distribution of RACK1 out of the nucleus. It is interesting to note that acute ethanol re-challenge immediately after chronic treatment did not result in RACK1 translocation to the nucleus, and nuclear compartmentalization of RACK1 in response to acute ethanol was detected only after 24 hr of withdrawal. Similar patterns were obtained for c-fos expression. Chronic exposure to ethanol did not result in an increase in mRNA or protein levels of c-fos. Furthermore, acute ethanol exposure did not increase c-fos protein levels in cells that were first treated chronically with ethanol. However, transduction of exogenous RACK1 expressed as a Tat-fusion protein was able to rescue c-fos mRNA expression after chronic ethanol exposure. Conclusions: Our data suggest that RACK1 nuclear compartmentalization and ethanol-induced c-fos expression are transient and are desensitized to ethanol during prolonged exposure to high concentrations. The desensitization is temporary, and RACK1 can respond to acute ethanol treatment after a 24-hr withdrawal period. Our data further suggest that the altered compartmentalization of RACK1 leads to differences in c-fos expression upon acute or chronic exposure to ethanol. In summary, RACK1 is an important molecular mediator of the acute and chronic actions of ethanol on the expression of c-fos. These findings could have implications for the molecular signaling pathways leading to pathologic states associated with alcoholism, including toxicity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1599-1605
Number of pages7
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Chronic
  • RACK1
  • Tat
  • Tolerance
  • c-fos


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