Apnea and bradycardia due to anaphylaxis to tobacco glycoprotein in the infant rabbit

William M. Gershan, Carl G. Becker, Hubert V. Forster, Nathaniel S. Besch, Timothy F. Lowry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cigarette smoke is associated with an increased incidence of the sudden infant death syndrome, although the cause(s) for this is unknown. Tobacco glycoprotein (TGP), a group of proteins purified from cured tobacco leaves and present in cigarette smoke, have been shown to cause anaphylaxis in excised hearts and lungs of adult rabbits that were neonatally sensitized to TGP and later rechallenged. We sought to determine whether anaphylaxis occurred in live infant rabbits who were neonatally sensitized to TGP. At the age of 1 day, 12 animals were sensitized to TGP (0. 1mg in 0.25cc alum) via intraperitoneal injection (ipi) followed by a booster ipi at the age of 30 days (TGP-S). Seven animals received ipi of antigen-free alum only (controls). All animals underwent an intravenous TGP challenge at age 42±2 days. Heart rate (HR) and respiratory rate (RR) were recorded for 2min prior to and 5min after the challenge. Baseline HR (∼260) and RR (∼120) were similar in all animals. Seven TGP-S animals developed apnea (1.9-4.7s) within 60s of the challenge while none of the controls did. The TGP-S also became bradycardic (the lowest HR over 50 consecutive beats), with the HR decreasing from 260 to 220 vs the controls, whose HR remained constant (∼250). We conclude that some rabbits neonatally sensitized to TGP develop apnea and bradycardia upon further intravenous TGP challenge. These studies suggest that cigarette smoke exposure may be associated with a higher rate of SIDS via an anaphylactic mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-159
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the Wisconsin Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin (WMG). The animal studies were conducted in accordance with national and institutional guidelines for animal welfare.


  • Apnea
  • Bradycardia
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Control of breathing
  • Neonatal sensitization
  • Sudden infant death syndrome


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