Authors:B. Mammel, T. Kvárik, Zs. Szabó, J. Gyarmati, T. Ertl, J. Farkas, Zs. Helyes, T. Atlasz, D. Reglődi and P. Kiss
Numerous studies indicate that smoking during pregnancy exerts harmful effects on fetal brain development. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of maternal smoking during pregnancy on the early physical and neurobehavioral development of newborn rats. Wistar rats were subjected to whole-body smoke exposure for 2 × 40 min daily from the day of mating until day of delivery. For this treatment, a manual closed-chamber smoking system and 4 research cigarettes per occasion were used. After delivery the offspring were tested daily for somatic growth, maturation of facial characteristics and neurobehavioral development until three weeks of age. Motor coordination tests were performed at 3 and 4 weeks of age. We found that prenatal cigarette smoke exposure did not alter weight gain or motor coordination. Critical physical reflexes indicative of neurobehavioral development (eyelid reflex, ear unfolding) appeared significantly later in pups prenatally exposed to smoke as compared to the control group. Prenatal smoke exposure also resulted in a delayed appearance of reflexes indicating neural maturity, including hind limb grasping and forelimb placing reflexes. In conclusion, clinically relevant prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke results in slightly altered neurobehavioral development in rat pups. These findings suggest that chronic exposure of pregnant mothers to cigarette smoke (including passive smoking) results in persisting alterations in the developing brain, which may have long-lasting consequences supporting the concept of developmental origins of health and disease (DoHAD).