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Study Finds Nicotine-Sired Male Offspring at Risk of Addiction Behavior and Memory Impairments

Parental smoking is a significant risk factor for developing smoking behavior and nicotine dependence in offspring. These findings suggest that parental nicotine exposure may promote addiction-like behaviors in subsequent generations. Given the significance of cigarette smoking for public health, preventing nicotine use among adolescents is critical to ending tobacco use disorder and decreasing e-cigarette use.

June 08, 2022

In a novel study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) have discovered that paternal nicotine taking is associated with addiction-like behaviors, cognitive deficits, and anxiety-like behaviors in male offspring. These heritable effects were associated with reduced expression of Satb2, a transcription factor, in the hippocampus of male offspring. Increasing Satb2 expression in the hippocampus rescued the memory deficits associated with paternal nicotine taking in male offspring.

“Understanding how voluntary nicotine-taking changes germ cells and/or seminal fluid and how these modifications translate into neuroadaptations and behavioral phenotypes in subsequent generations is necessary for understanding the heritability of parental drug taking,” says Heath D. Schmidt, PhD, Associate Professor and lead author of the article. “Findings from these studies highlight vulnerable populations at risk for developing nicotine dependence, cognitive impairments, and/or mental health disorders.”

The article “Paternal Nicotine-Taking Elicits Heritable Sex-Specific Phenotypes That Are Mediated by Hippocampal Satb2” details the study. It has been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and is available online. Co-authors of the article include John J. Maurer, Christopher A. Turner, Rae J. Herman, Yafang Zhang, Kael Ragnini, Julia Ferrante, and Blake A. Kimmey, all of Penn Nursing; Mathieu E. Wimmer of Temple University; Richard C. Crist, the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine; and R. Christopher Pierce, of Rutgers University.

This work was supported by the following grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): R01 DA037897, R21 DA039393 and R21 DA045792 (HDS), R01 DA033641 (RCP), T32 DA028874 (RJH and MEW), T32 GM008076 (JF), and K01 DA039308 (MEW). This study was also supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (HDS).

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