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Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 24;9(1):445. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37098-1.

Comparison between dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic neurons in the VTA following chronic nicotine exposure during pregnancy.

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1
University of Houston, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Houston, TX, 77204, USA.
2
University of Houston, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Houston, TX, 77204, USA. makay@uh.edu.

Abstract

Exposure to nicotine during pregnancy through maternal smoking or nicotine replacement therapy is associated with adverse birth outcomes as well as several cognitive and neurobehavioral deficits. Several studies have shown that nicotine produces long-lasting effects on gene expression within many brain regions, including the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which is the origin of dopaminergic neurons and the dopamine reward pathway. Using a well-established rat model for perinatal nicotine exposure, we sought to investigate altered biological pathways using mRNA and miRNA expression profiles of dopaminergic (DA) and non-dopaminergic (non-DA) neurons in this highly-valuable area. Putative miRNA-gene target interactions were assessed as well as miRNA-pathway interactions. Our results indicate that extracellular matrix (ECM) receptor interactions were significantly altered in DA and non-DA neurons due to chronic nicotine exposure during pregnancy. They also show that the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway was enriched in DA neurons with multiple significant miRNA-gene targets, but the same changes were not seen in non-DA neurons. We speculate that nicotine exposure during pregnancy could differentially affect the gene expression of DA and non-DA neurons in the VTA.

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