The Developmental Neurotoxicity of Tobacco Smoke Can Be Mimicked by a Combination of Nicotine and Benzo[a]Pyrene: Effects on Cholinergic and Serotonergic Systems.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Tobacco smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in addition to nicotine. We compared the developmental neurotoxicity of nicotine to that of the PAH archetype, benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), and also evaluated the effects of combined exposure to assess whether PAHs might exacerbate the adverse effects of nicotine. Pregnant rats were treated preconception through the first postnatal week, modeling nicotine concentrations in smokers and a low BaP dose devoid of systemic effects. We conducted evaluations of acetylcholine (ACh) and serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5HT) systems in brain regions from adolescence through full adulthood. Nicotine or BaP alone impaired indices of ACh presynaptic activity, accompanied by upregulation of nicotinic ACh receptors and 5HT receptors. Combined treatment elicited a greater deficit in ACh presynaptic activity than that seen with either agent alone, and upregulation of nAChRs and 5HT receptors was impaired or absent. The individual effects of nicotine and BaP accounted for only 60% of the combination effects, which thus displayed unique properties. Importantly, the combined nicotine + BaP exposure recapitulated the effects of tobacco smoke, distinct from nicotine. Our results show that the effects of nicotine on development of ACh and 5HT systems are worsened by BaP coexposure, and that combination of the two agents contributes to the greater impact of tobacco smoke on the developing brain. These results have important implications for the relative safety in pregnancy of nicotine-containing products compared with combusted tobacco, both for active maternal smoking and secondhand exposure, and for the effects of such agents in "dirty" environments with high PAH coexposure.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Slotkin, TA; Skavicus, S; Ko, A; Levin, ED; Seidler, FJ

Published Date

  • January 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 167 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 293 - 304

PubMed ID

  • 30247698

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6681680

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0929

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/toxsci/kfy241


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States