Exposing rats to aged and diluted sidestream cigarette smoke (ADSS) throughout in utero and postnatal life results in airway hyperresponsiveness and an increase in pulmonary neuroendocrine cells (PNECs) and neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs) in 7- to 10-week-old rats. Since human epidemiologic studies suggest that perinatal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) may be detrimental to the lung function of older children, this study was designed to determine if perinatal exposure alone results in airway hyperresponsiveness and increased PNECs/NEBs later in life in rats. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to filtered air (FA, n = 7) or ADSS (1 mg/m3 total suspended particulates, n = 7) for 4 to 6 h/day starting on Day 3 of gestation. Their pups continued to receive the same exposure regimen postnatally until 21 days of age. Thereafter all pups were exposed to FA until about 8 weeks of age. The airway responsiveness of one female pup from each litter was then assessed using an isolated perfused lung system whereby increasing doses of methacholine (-9.25 to -7.50 log mol) were administered into the pulmonary artery and lung resistance (RL), dynamic compliance (Cdyn), and pulmonary pressure (Ppa) were measured. The number of PNECs/NEBs and mast cells per millimeter basal lamina were determined using immunocytochemical and histological staining and morphometric analysis. Statistics were performed using an unpaired Student's t test and repeated measures analysis of variance. Perinatal ADSS exposure enhanced methacholine- induced changes in RL (p = 0.02), Cdyn (p = 0.004), and Ppa (p = 0.007). At the highest dose of methacholine, RL in the ADSS-exposed lungs was threefold that in FA-exposed lungs. Although total PNEC number increased approximately twofold in the ADSS-exposed animals, this change was not found to be statistically significant. Mast cell number also was not different between groups. These data suggest that exposure to ADSS during the perinatal period followed by 5 weeks exposure to FA induces airway hyperresponsiveness in the absence of a significant change in PNECs, NEBs, or mast cells.
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