Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. David J. Feola


Current smoking cessation guidelines recommend nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to assist pregnant smokers to quit, but this is without strong evidence for effectiveness and safety. Nicotine, the main addictive component of tobacco, is known to exert physiological effects by binding to its receptor, the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). Recent studies have identified the presence of nAChRs in non-neuronal cells, and in macrophages, functional alteration upon stimulation with nicotine has been documented.

To understand the impact of in utero nicotine exposure on various immune cell disposition and function, we designed preliminary studies using an in vivo model of P. aeruginosa infection. In this model, pregnant mice were exposed to nicotine and after weaning, offspring were infected intra-tracheally and humanely killed 5 days later.

Nicotine-exposed mice had a greater weight reduction post-infection. This was accompanied by a decreased number of neutrophil, resident macrophages, and B lymphocytes in the lungs, while the number of B lymphocytes in the lymph nodes were greater than that of the control group. In the lung lavage fluids, IL-6, MCP-1, and TNFα concentrations were elevated in nicotine-exposed mice. In an in vitro system using bone marrow-derived macrophages, a significantly reduced production of IFNγ was observed in nicotine-exposed mice when cells were stimulated with LPS.

To characterize and compare gene expression in macrophages isolated from neonates developmentally exposed to nicotine, we designed a clinical study to recruit pregnant mothers who 1) did not smoke during pregnancy, 2) smoked throughout pregnancy, or 3) used NRT during pregnancy. We found that successful RNA isolation can be achieved from neonatal tracheal aspirate samples and cell number and reagent volumes were important determinants of acceptable RNA quality and quantity.

Together, these preliminary findings demonstrate a possible alteration in immune response as a result of in utero nicotine exposure and sets a groundwork for future studies in identifying mechanisms underlying the impact of developmental nicotine exposure.

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