Nicotine as a TeratogenAccording to American Heritage a teratogen is a substance that cause the malformation of an embryo or fetus.1 The below studies examine nicotine as a teratogen in rats. It should be noted that for obvious reasons no study has yet examined nicotine exposure alone (without accompanying cigarette smoke) as a teratogen in the human embryo or fetus.
Behav Brain Res. 2004 April 2;150(1-2):159-70.
An assessment of the long-term developmental and behavioral teratogenicity of prenatal nicotine exposure.
Vaglenova J, Birru S, Pandiella NM, Breese CR.
Department of Pharmacal Sciences, Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy, 401 Walker Building, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA.
Maternal tobacco use during pregnancy adversely affects prenatal and postnatal growth and increases the risk of developmental and behavioral deficits in children and adolescents. In the present study, the effects of prenatal nicotine exposure (infused at 6mg/kg/day) and maternal withdraw during neonatal development, was examined in Sprague-Dawley rats on an array of behavioral tasks during different stages of ontogenesis. Offspring of both genders were monitored for exploratory, locomotor, and novelty-seeking activity, anxiety, and learning and memory in an active-avoidance task. Nicotine-exposed animals showed growth retardation, hyperactivity, and poor adaptation in a new environment, increased level of anxiety during the early adolescent period, and robust cognitive deficits in early adulthood. In addition, the deficits were generally more severe in the female nicotine-exposed offspring. Cross-fostering also revealed that while maternal behavior and nicotine withdraw did not affect postnatal somatic growth retardation or cognitive ability of the offspring; measures of exploration and adaptation in a new environment were impacted during the post-weanling and early adolescence period. Nicotine-exposed offspring, and the saline-treated offspring cross-fostered to nicotine-exposed mothers, showed higher measures of anxiety in the elevated plus-maze and decreased novelty-seeking behavior on the hole-board apparatus. These studies demonstrated that prenatal nicotine exposure produced significant long-term developmental and behavioral teratogenic effects. The study design provides a model system for studying the mechanism(s) responsible for the decline in central nervous system function following prenatal nicotine exposure, as well as that of other neurological and behavioral teratogens during pregnancy.
PMID: 15033289 [PubMed - in process]
Brain Res. 2003 Jul 25;979(1-2):114-28.
Nicotine is a neurotoxin in the adolescent brain: critical periods, patterns of exposure, regional selectivity, and dose thresholds for macromolecular alterations.
Abreu-Villaca Y, Seidler FJ, Tate CA, Slotkin TA.
Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, 27710, Durham, NC, USA.
In the fetus, nicotine is a neuroteratogen that elicits cell damage and loss and subsequent abnormalities of synaptic function. We explored whether these effects extend into adolescence, the period when most people begin smoking. Beginning on postnatal day 30, rats were given a 1 week regimen of nicotine infusions or twice-daily injections, at doses (0.6, 2 and 6 mg/kg/day) set to achieve plasma levels found in occasional to regular smokers. We assessed indices of cell packing density and cell number (DNA concentration and content), cell size (total protein/DNA ratio) and neuritic projections (membrane/total protein) in the midbrain, hippocampus and cerebral cortex, three regions known to be vulnerable to developmental effects of nicotine. With either route of administration, nicotine evoked shortfalls in DNA concentration and content, compensatory elevations of total protein/DNA, and reductions in the membrane/total protein ratio. Nearly all of the effects were apparent even at the lowest dose of nicotine and remained fully evident 1 month posttreatment. Although both males and females showed significant alterations, in general the effects were larger in females. Our results indicate that in adolescence, even a brief period of continuous or intermittent nicotine exposure, elicits lasting alterations in biomarkers associated with cellular and neuritic damage. As the effects are detected at exposures that produce plasma concentrations one-tenth of those in regular smokers, the exquisite sensitivity of the adolescent brain to nicotine neurotoxicity may contribute to lasting neurobehavioral damage even in occasional smokers.
PMID: 12850578 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2000 Apr;65(4):711-8.
Neonatal nicotine exposure alters hippocampal EEG and event-related potentials (ERPs) in rats.
Slawecki CJ, Thomas JD, Riley EP, Ehlers CL.
The Scripps Research Institute, Department of Neuropharmacology, La Jolla, CA 902037, USA.
A consensus is forming that nicotine can damage the developing rat central nervous system. However, few studies have assessed the electrophysiological effects of neonatal nicotine exposure in rodents in brain regions known to be sensitive to the teratogenic properties of nicotine. In a previous study it was reported that 1.0 and 4.0 mg/kg/day nicotine exposure from postnatal days 4-9, a developmental period corresponding to human third-trimester exposure, significantly altered hippocampal event-related potentials (ERPs) but did not effect cortical ERPs, cortical EEG, or hippocampal EEG. Because alterations in behavior and cortical/hippocampal neurochemistry and morphology have been reported following nicotine exposure, the present study used a higher dose of nicotine during the postnatal period (6.0 mg/kg/day) determine if functional changes in the EEG of these regions might contribute to behavioral changes that have been observed. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to 6. 0 mg/kg/day nicotine via gastric infusion using an artificial rearing, "pup-in-the-cup," technique for 6 consecutive days (postnatal days 4-9). At adulthood, EEG and auditory ERPs were recorded from the cortex and hippocampus. There were no significant differences in EEG or ERPs recorded from the cortex between nicotine-treated and control subjects. Examination of the hippocampal EEG revealed significantly decreased power in the 1-2-Hz frequency band of nicotine-treated rats. In addition, there was a significantly attenuated P300 ERP response to a noise tone in the nicotine-treated rats compared to controls. These data indicate that neonatal nicotine exposure alters functional activity in the hippocampus of adult rats. These effects are likely to be the result of synaptic disorganization in the hippocampus, and indicate that neonatal nicotine exposure exerts teratogenic effects on the developing central nervous system, particularly the hippocampus, which persist into adulthood.
PMID: 10764927 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1998 Dec;287(3):1136-44.
Nicotine evokes cell death in embryonic rat brain during neurulation.
Roy TS, Andrews JE, Seidler FJ, Slotkin TA.
Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi 110029, India.
Maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy represents the most prevalent exposure to a suspected neuroteratogen, nicotine. Although animal models have demonstrated brain cell loss and synaptic abnormalities after prenatal nicotine exposure, the multiple effects of nicotine on the maternal-fetal unit make it difficult to prove that nicotine itself is a neuroteratogen. In the current study, whole rat embryo culture was used to study the effects of nicotine at the neural tube stage of development. Beginning on embryonic day 9.5, embryos were exposed to 1, 10 or 100 microM nicotine. After 48 hr, embryos were examined for dysmorphogenesis and were then processed for light microscopic examination of the neuroepithelium. Examination of the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain regions revealed extensive cytotoxicity, evidenced by cytoplasmic vacuolation, enlargement of intercellular spaces and a sharply increased incidence of pyknotic/apoptotic cells. These alterations were evident in the absence of generalized dysmorphogenesis and were detectable even at the lowest concentration of nicotine. At the highest concentration, abnormalities were present in the majority of cells. Superimposed on cell damage, we found an increase in mitotic figures. Although enhanced mitosis could represent partial compensation for cell loss, the regional selectivity and concentration dependence of the mitogenic effect differed significantly from that of cell death, suggesting separable mechanisms. The present results support the view that nicotine is a neuroteratogen, specifically targeting brain development at concentrations below the threshold for dysmorphogenesis.
PMID: 9864303 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Neurotoxicol Teratol. 1991 May-Jun;13(3):307-16.
The teratogenic effects of nicotine in vitro in rats: a light and electron microscope study.
Joschko MA, Dreosti IE, Tulsi RS.
Division of Human Nutrition, CSIRO, Adelaide, South Australia.
Cigarette smoking in pregnant women has been shown to lead to intrauterine growth retardation and fetal death, and possibly also to neural dysmorphology and long-term learning deficits in the offspring. Because the teratogenic agent in cigarette smoke remains controversial, the present study on rat embryos in culture examined specifically whether nicotine can cause neural dysmorphology and, hence, act as a nervous system teratogen. This in vitro study confirmed previous reports in utero that nicotine leads to growth retardation, and, in addition, demonstrated that development of the nervous system, particularly the forebrain, as well as the branchial arches was impaired, possibly leading to microcephaly and cleft palate respectively in term fetuses. Cellular disruption and necrosis occurred in the neuroepithelium and underlying mesenchyme, with the effect being dose dependent. Ultrastructurally, there was severe disruption of cell and organelle membranes, with many healthy cells containing engulfed, whole condensed or remnants of dead cells. This study demonstrates that nicotine acts as a nervous system teratogen leading to gross and cellular dysmorphology. Suggested mechanisms for nicotine action include the possibility that the highly lipid soluble teratogen may exert its effects directly on the membranes or indirectly through oxidative membrane damage.
PMID: 1886540 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]