Fetal and Neonatal Exposure to Nicotine Disrupts Ovarian Function and Fertility in Adult Female Rats
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Women born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have been shown to have impaired fertility, although the mechanisms underlying this association are unknown. Nicotine administration in adult animals has adverse effects on the ovary and uterus; however, the effects of fetal exposure to nicotine on postnatal ovarian function have not been determined. The goal of this study was to assess the effect of fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine on ovarian function and fertility of the offspring. Nulliparous female Wistar rats were given 1 mg.kg-1.d-1 nicotine bitartrate, subcutaneously for 14 d prior to mating, during pregnancy and throughout lactation until weaning. Measures of fertility, breeding success, and serum levels of ovarian steroid hormones in offspring were assessed at 4 and 6 mo of age. Fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine significantly increased the time to pregnancy as the animals aged. Similarly, evidence of altered ovarian steroidogenesis including increased serum progesterone concentrations and a decreased estrogen:progesterone ratio was observed in 6-mo-old animals. We conclude that fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine results in delayed ovarian dysfunction in adult female offspring.
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