Chronic, episodic nicotine alters hypoglossal motor neuron function at a critical developmental time point in neonatal rats

Lila Buls Wollman, Ralph F. Fregosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Developmental nicotine exposure (DNE), alters brainstem neurons that control breathing, including hypoglossal motor neurons (XIIMNs), which innervate the tongue. Here, we tested the hypothesis that chronic, episodic DNE (eDNE), which mimics nicotine replacement therapies such as e-cigarettes or nicotine gum, alters the function of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), XIIMN intrinsic properties, and tongue muscle function in vivo similar to what we have observed with a chronic, sustained exposure model. We delivered nicotine to pregnant Sprague Dawley rats through drinking water and studied pups of either sex in two age groups: postnatal day (P)1–P5 and P10–P12, which encompasses a critical period in brain development. At P1–P5, eDNE was associated with delayed recovery of nAChRs from desensitization; however, there were no changes in the magnitude of desensitization, XIIMN intrinsic properties, or tongue muscle function in vivo. By P10–P12, eDNE XIIMNs had lower peak firing frequencies in response to depolarizing current injection, larger delayed rectifier potassium currents, and continued to exhibit delayed nAChR recovery. Moreover, this age group exhibited a blunted and delayed tongue muscle response to nasal occlusion in vivo, indicating that changes to XIIMN intrinsic properties is an important mechanism behind this effect, as it is not produced by altered nAChR function alone. Together, these results show that eDNE alters XIIMNs and tongue muscle function during a critical period in brain development and that the specific effects of chronic nicotine exposure may be pattern dependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberENEURO.0203-21.2021
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • Firing rate
  • Homeostatic plasticity
  • Neuron development
  • Neurotoxin
  • Pattern sensitivity
  • Potassium conductance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Chronic, episodic nicotine alters hypoglossal motor neuron function at a critical developmental time point in neonatal rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this