Prenatal nicotine exposure alters postnatal cardiorespiratory integration in young male but not female rats

Carie R. Boychuk, Linda F. Hayward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The present study tested the hypothesis that prenatal nicotine exposure (PNE) induces sex specific alternations in indices of cardiorespiratory coupling during early development. Rat pups exposed to either nicotine (6mg/kg/day) or saline (control) in utero were chronically instrumented with ECG electrodes for measurement of heart rate (HR) and respiratory frequency (RF) was monitored by whole body plethysmography on postnatal days (P)13, P16 and P26. PNE had no identifiable effect on resting respiratory frequency (RF) in either sex. There was however a strong trend (p=0.057) for resting HR to be elevated by PNE in male offspring only. Alternatively, the HR response to hypoxia (10% O 2), was significantly blunted at P13 but significantly elevated at P26 s in the absence of any significant change in RF in PNE males only. Indicators of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were also significantly reduced in P26 PNE males. No significant effects of PNE on HR, RF or RSA were identified in female offspring at any age. Our results demonstrate that PNE induces very specific changes in cardiorespiratory integration at select postnatal ages and these changes are more prominent in males. Additionally, alternations in cardiorespiratory integration appear to persist into later development in males only, potentially increasing the risk for cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension later in life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-221
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Heart rate
  • Heart rate variability
  • Prenatal nicotine
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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