Increased airway responsiveness and decreased alveolar attachment points following in utero smoke exposure in the guinea pig

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001 Jan;163(1):140-4. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.163.1.9805099.


Maternal smoking during pregnancy has been shown to result in abnormalities in lung function in newborn infants, including reduced expiratory flow and increased airway responsiveness to inhaled agonists. The mechanisms by which this occurs remain unclear. Using a guinea pig model of in utero smoke exposure, we measured airway responsiveness and lung morphology in a group of neonatal guinea pigs 21 d after delivery. Pregnant guinea pigs were exposed to cigarette smoke from Day 28 to term (Day 68 of gestation). After delivery newborn animals did not receive any smoke exposure. Airway wall thickness, smooth muscle area, and the number of points where the alveoli attached to the airway adventitia were measured. Airway responsiveness was increased (p < 0.05) and the mean distance between alveolar attachment points was increased (mean 0.052 +/- SE 0.001 mm versus 0.046 +/- 0.001, p = 0.001) in animals exposed to cigarette smoke in utero compared with nonexposed animals. Although not statistically significant, both the inner and outer airway wall and the smooth muscle area were greater in exposed animals compared with nonexposed animals. The increased mean distance between alveolar attachments in the smoke-exposed group was the result of a reduction in the number of attachments and an increase in the outer airway wall perimeter. These findings suggest that the increased airway responsiveness observed in postnatal animals, subsequent to in utero cigarette smoke exposure, may be the result of decreased alveolar attachment points to the airways and changes in airway dimensions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fetus / pathology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Lung / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*