Nicotine causes age-related changes in gene expression in the adolescent female rat brain
Humans often start smoking during adolescence. Recent results suggest that rodents may also be particularly vulnerable to nicotine dependence during adolescence. We examined the effect of chronic nicotine exposure on gene expression profiles during adolescence in female rats, who were dosed with nicotine (and control animals were dosed with saline) via subcutaneously implanted osmotic minipumps. Brain samples were collected at four ages: before puberty (postnatal day 25), at about the time of puberty in females (postnatal day 35), and after puberty (postnatal days 45 and 55). The expression of 7931 genes in three brain areas was measured using DNA microarrays. Quantitative RT-PCR was also employed to confirm the expression patterns of selected genes. We used a novel clustering technique (principal cluster analysis) to classify 162 nicotine-regulated genes into five clusters, of which only one (cluster A) showed similar patterns of gene expression across all three brain areas (ventral striatum, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus). Three clusters of genes (A, B, and C) showed dramatic peaks in their nicotine responses at the same age (p35). The other two clusters (D1 and D2) showed smaller peaks and/or valleys in their nicotine responses at p35 and p45. Thus, the age of maximal gene expression response to nicotine in female rats corresponds approximately to the age of maximal behavioral response and the age of puberty.
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