Brain edema and derived oxidative stress potentially are critical events in the hippocampal-entorhinal cortical (HEC) neurodegeneration caused by binge alcohol (ethanol) intoxication and withdrawal in adult rats. Edema’s role is based on findings that furosemide diuretic antagonizes binge alcohol–dependent brain overhydration and neurodamage in vivo and in rat organotypic HEC slice cultures. However, evidence that furosemide has significant antioxidant potential and knowledge that alcohol can cause oxidative stress through non-edemic pathways has placed edema’s role in question. We therefore studied three other diuretics and a related non-diuretic that, according to our oxygen radical antioxidant capacity (ORAC) assays or the literature, possess minimal antioxidant potential. Acetazolamide (ATZ), a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor/diuretic with negligible ORAC effectiveness and, interestingly, an aquaporin-4 (AQP4) water channel inhibitor, prevented alcohol-dependent tissue edema and neurodegeneration in HEC slice cultures. Likewise, in binge alcohol–intoxicated rats, ATZ suppressed brain edema while inhibiting neurodegeneration. Torasemide, a loop diuretic lacking furosemide’s ORAC capability, also prevented alcohol-induced neurodamage in HEC slice cultures. However, bumetanide (BUM), a diuretic blocker of Na+-K+-2Cl− channels, and L-644, 711, a nondiuretic anion channel inhibitor—both lacking antioxidant capabilities as well as reportedly ineffective against alcohol-dependent brain damage in vivo—reduced neither alcohol-induced neurotoxicity nor (with BUM) edema in HEC slices. Because an AQP4 blocker (ATZ) was neuroprotective, AQP4 expression in the HEC slices was examined and found to be elevated by binge alcohol. The results further indicate that binge ethanol-induced brain edema/swelling, potentially associated with AQP4 upregulation, may be important in consequent neurodegeneration that could derive from neuroinflammatory processes, for example, membrane arachidonic acid mobilization and associated oxidative stress.
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