Effect of nicotine on placental ischemia-induced complement activation and hypertension in the rat

Connor F. Laule, Cameron R. Wing, Evan J. Odean, Jacob A. Wilcox, Jeffrey S. Gilbert, Jean F Regal

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Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-specific condition manifested by new-onset maternal hypertension with systemic inflammation, including increased innate immune system complement activation. While exact pathophysiology is unknown, evidence suggests that inadequate spiral artery invasion and resulting utero-placental insufficiency is the initiating event. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy decreases the risk of preeclampsia. Nicotine, a major component of cigarettes, stimulates the efferent cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway through peripherally expressed nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) and is known to attenuate ischemia–reperfusion injury in kidney and liver. Prior studies indicated that complement activation was critical for placental ischemia-induced hypertension in a rat model. Thus, it was hypothesized here that nicotine was responsible for the protective effect of cigarette smoking in preeclampsia and would attenuate placental ischemia-induced systemic complement activation and hypertension. The Reduced Utero-placental Perfusion Pressure (RUPP) model in the pregnant rat was employed to induce placental ischemia, resulting in complement activation, fetal resorptions, and hypertension. On gestation day (GD)14, nicotine (1 mg/kg) or saline was administered via subcutaneous injection prior to RUPP surgery and daily through GD18. On GD19, placental ischemia significantly increased mean arterial pressure (MAP) in saline injected animals. However, the placental ischemia-induced increase in blood pressure was not evident in nicotine-treated animals and nicotine treatment significantly increased MAP variability. Circulating C3a was measured as an indicator of complement activation and increased C3a in RUPP compared to Sham persisted with nicotine treatment, as did fetal resorptions. These data suggested to us that nicotine may contribute to the decreased risk of preeclampsia with cigarette smoking, but this protective effect was confounded by additional effects of nicotine on the cardiovascular system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-240
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of immunotoxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • Complement
  • Gestational hypertension
  • Hypertension
  • Nicotine
  • Placental ischemia
  • Preeclampsia
  • Smoking

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