Intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia effects on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the developing piglet hippocampus and brainstem

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This study investigated the effects of acute (1 day) vs repeated (4 days) exposure to intermittent hypercapnic hypoxia (IHH) on the immunohistochemical expression of α2, α3, α5, α7, α9 and β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits in the developing piglet hippocampus and brainstem medulla, and how prior nicotine exposure alters the response to acute IHH. Five piglet groups included: 1 day IHH (1D IHH, n = 9), 4 days IHH (4D IHH, n = 8), controls exposed only to air cycles for 1 day (1D Air, n = 6) or 4 days (4D Air, n = 5), and pre-exposed to nicotine for 13 days prior to 1 day IHH (Nic + 1D IHH, n = 7). The exposure period alternated 6 min of HH (8%O2, 7%CO2, balance N2) and 6 min of air over 48 min, while controls were switched from air-to-air. Results showed that: 1. repeated IHH induces more changes in nAChR subunit expression than acute IHH in both the hippocampus and brainstem medulla, 2. In the hippocampus, α2 and β2 changed the most (increased) following IHH and the CA3, CA2 and DG were mostly affected. In the brainstem medulla, α2, α5, α9 and β2 were changed (decreased) in most nuclei with the hypoglossal and nucleus of the solitary tract being mostly affected. 3. Pre-exposure to nicotine enhanced the changes in the hippocampus but dampened those in the brainstem medulla. These findings indicate that the nAChRs (predominantly with the α2/β2 complex) are affected by IHH in critical hippocampal and brainstem nuclei during early brain development, and that pre-exposure to nicotine alters the pattern of susceptibility to IHH.

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