Effect of Nicotine Exposure During Pregnancy and Lactation on Maternal, Fetal, and Postnatal Rat IGF-II Profile
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Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to result in an increased risk of low birth weight. However, the mechanisms underlying this association are poorly understood. The insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system plays a critical role in the regulation of feto-placental growth and development, and abnormal processing of proIGF-II may alter its biological function. Our goal was to investigate the effects of exposure to nicotine on maternal, fetal, and neonatal IGF-II processing. Nulliparous female Wistar rats were randomly assigned to receive saline (vehicle) or nicotine bitartrate (1 mg x kg(-1) x d(- 1)). After mating, dams were euthanized at embryonic days 15, 18, and 21, and fetal body weight was recorded. Serum (fetal and maternal) was collected for determination of the IGF-II profile by Western blot analysis. Nicotine exposure prevented the decrease in maternal IGF-II processing seen in controls with advancing gestation. However, there was no influence of nicotine on fetal levels of IGF-II. Postnatally (postnatal day [PND] 21), pups exposed to nicotine in utero had decreased levels of big IGF-II. Our results show, for the first time, that nicotine exposure prevents the decrease of IGF-II processing in the maternal compartment. This may represent a compensatory mechanism allowing the mother to counteract the negative influence of nicotine on fetal growth and development. Our postnatal findings of suppressed IGF-II may help explain some of the long-term health complications seen in individuals exposed to smoking in utero.
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