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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2009 Sep-Oct;31(5):291-302. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Jun 17.

Simultaneous prenatal ethanol and nicotine exposure affect ethanol consumption, ethanol preference and oxytocin receptor binding in adolescent and adult rats.

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  • 1Curriculum in Neurobiology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Ethanol consumption and smoking during pregnancy are common, despite the known adverse effects on the fetus. The teratogenicity of each drug independently is well established; however, the effects of concurrent exposure to ethanol and nicotine in preclinical models remain unclear. This study examined the impact of simultaneous prenatal exposure to both ethanol and nicotine on offspring ethanol preference behaviors and oxytocin system dynamics. Rat dams were given liquid diet (17% ethanol derived calories (EDC)) on gestational day (GD) 5 and 35% EDC from GD 6-20 and concurrently an osmotic minipump delivered nicotine (3-6mg/kg/day) from GD 4-postpartum day 10. Offspring were tested for ethanol preference during adolescence (postnatal day (PND) 30-43) and again at adulthood (PND 60-73), followed by assays for oxytocin mRNA expression and receptor binding in relevant brain regions. Prenatal exposure decreased ethanol preference in males during adolescence, and decreased consumption and preference in females during adulthood compared to controls. Oxytocin receptor binding in the nucleus accumbens and hippocampus was increased in adult prenatally exposed males only. Prenatal exposure to these drugs sex-specifically decreased ethanol preference behavior in offspring unlike reports for either drug separately. The possible role of oxytocin in reduction of ethanol consumption behavior is highlighted.

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