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Addict Biol. 2019 Nov 28:e12859. doi: 10.1111/adb.12859. [Epub ahead of print]

Paternal nicotine enhances fear memory, reduces nicotine administration, and alters hippocampal genetic and neural function in offspring.

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Department of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania.
Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.
College of Pharmacy, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California.
Bioinformatics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Penn State University, University Park, PA.
Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Nicotine use remains highly prevalent with tobacco and e-cigarette products consumed worldwide. However, increasing evidence of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance suggests that nicotine use may alter behavior and neurobiology in subsequent generations. We tested the effects of chronic paternal nicotine exposure in C57BL6/J mice on fear conditioning in F1 and F2 offspring, as well as conditioned fear extinction and spontaneous recovery, nicotine self-administration, hippocampal cholinergic functioning, RNA expression, and DNA methylation in F1 offspring. Paternal nicotine exposure was associated with enhanced contextual and cued fear conditioning and spontaneous recovery of extinguished fear memories. Further, nicotine reinforcement was reduced in nicotine-sired mice, as assessed in a self-administration paradigm. These behavioral phenotypes were coupled with altered response to nicotine, upregulated hippocampal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor binding, reduced evoked hippocampal cholinergic currents, and altered methylation and expression of hippocampal genes related to neural development and plasticity. Gene expression analysis suggests multigenerational effects on broader gene networks potentially involved in neuroplasticity and mental disorders. The changes in fear conditioning similarly suggest phenotypes analogous to anxiety disorders similar to post-traumatic stress.


cholinergic; hippocampus; learning; multigenerational; nicotine; transgenerational


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