Intravenous gestational nicotine exposure results in increased motivation for sucrose reward in adult rat offspring

Ryan T. Lacy, Lauren L. Hord, Amanda J. Morgan, Steven B. Harrod*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Prenatal tobacco smoke exposure is associated with alterations in motivated behavior in offspring, such as increased consumption of highly palatable foods and abused drugs. Animal models show that gestational nicotine (GN) exposure mediates changes in responding for sucrose and drug reward. Methods: A novel, intermittent low-dose intravenous (IV) exposure model was used to administer nicotine (0.05. mg/kg/injection) or saline 3 ×. /day to rats on gestational days 8-21. Two experiments investigated the effect of IV GN on (1) the habituation of spontaneous locomotor activity and on (2) sucrose reinforced responding in offspring. For the operant experiments, animals acquired fixed-ratio (FR-3) responding for sucrose, 26% (w/v), and were tested on varying concentrations (0, 3, 10, 30, and 56%; Latin-square) according to a FR-3, and then a progressive-ratio (PR) schedule. Male and female adult offspring were used. Results: IV GN did not alter birth or growth weight, or the number of pups born. No between-group differences in habituation to spontaneous locomotor activity were observed. FR testing produced an inverted U-shaped response curve, and rats showed peak responding for 10% sucrose reinforcement. Neither gestation nor sex affected responding, suggesting equivalent sensitivity to varying sucrose concentrations. PR testing revealed that GN rats showed greater motivation for sucrose reinforcement relative to controls. Conclusions: A low-dose, IV GN exposure model resulted in increased motivation to respond for sucrose reinforcement in adult offspring. This suggests that using a low number of cigarettes throughout pregnancy will result in increased motivation for highly palatable foods in adult, and perhaps, adolescent offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-306
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Gestational nicotine
  • Locomotor activity
  • Rats
  • Sex
  • Sucrose-maintained responding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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