Permanent, sex-selective effects of prenatal or adolescent nicotine exposure, separately or sequentially, in rat brain regions: indices of cholinergic and serotonergic synaptic function, cell signaling, and neural cell number and size at 6 months of age.
Nicotine is a neuroteratogen that disrupts neurodevelopment and synaptic function, with vulnerability extending into adolescence. We assessed the permanence of effects in rats on indices of neural cell number and size, and on acetylcholine and serotonin (5HT) systems, conducting assessments at 6 months of age, after prenatal nicotine exposure, adolescent exposure, or sequential exposure in both periods. For prenatal nicotine, indices of cell number and size showed few abnormalities by 6 months, but there were persistent deficits in cerebrocortical choline acetyltransferase activity and hemicholinium-3 binding to the presynaptic choline transporter, a pattern consistent with cholinergic hypoactivity; these effects were more prominent in males than females. The expression of 5HT receptors also showed permanent effects in males, with suppression of the 5HT(1A) subtype and upregulation of 5HT(2) receptors. In addition, cell signaling through adenylyl cyclase showed heterologous uncoupling of neurotransmitter responses. Nicotine exposure in adolescence produced lasting effects that were similar to those of prenatal nicotine. However, when animals were exposed to prenatal nicotine and received nicotine subsequently in adolescence, the adverse effects then extended to females, whereas the net effect in males was similar to that of prenatal nicotine by itself. Our results indicate that prenatal or adolescent nicotine exposure evoke permanent changes in synaptic function that transcend the recovery of less-sensitive indices of structural damage; further, prenatal exposure sensitizes females to the subsequent adverse effects of adolescent nicotine, thus creating a population that may be especially vulnerable to the lasting behavioral consequences of nicotine intake in adolescence.
Slotkin, TA; MacKillop, EA; Rudder, CL; Ryde, IT; Tate, CA; Seidler, FJ
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