Despite huge efforts from public sectors to educate society as to the deleterious physiological consequences of smoking while pregnant, 12-25% of all babies worldwide are born to mothers who smoked during their pregnancies. Chief among the negative legacies bestowed to the exposed individual is an enhanced proclivity postnatally to addict to drugs of abuse, which suggests that the drug exposure during gestation changed the developing brain in such a way that biased it towards addiction. Glutamate signalling has been shown to be altered by prenatal nicotine exposure (PNE) and glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter within the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (LDT), which is a brainstem region importantly involved in responding to motivational stimuli and critical in development of drug addiction-associated behaviours, however, it is unknown whether PNE alters glutamate signalling within this nucleus. Accordingly, we used calcium imaging, to evaluate AMPA and NMDA receptor-mediated calcium responses in LDT brain slices from control and PNE mice. We also investigated whether the positive AMPA receptor modulator cyclothiazide (CYZ) had differential actions on calcium in the LDT following PNE. Our data indicated that PNE significantly decreased AMPA receptor-mediated calcium responses, and altered the neuronal calcium response to consecutive NMDA applications within the LDT. Furthermore, CYZ strongly potentiated AMPA-induced responses, however, this action was significantly reduced in the LDT of PNE mice when compared with enhancements in responses in control LDT cells. Immunohistochemical processing confirmed that calcium imaging recordings were obtained from the LDT nucleus as determined by presence of cholinergic neurons. Our results contribute to the body of evidence suggesting that neurobiological changes are induced if gestation is accompanied by nicotine exposure. We conclude that in light of the role played by the LDT in motivated behaviour, the cellular changes in the LDT induced by exposures to nicotine prenatally, when combined with alterations in other reward-related regions, could contribute to the increased susceptibility to smoking observed in the offspring.
Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, 2015, Vol 6, Issue 3, p. 225-41