Vitamin C prevents the effects of prenatal nicotine on pulmonary function in newborn monkeys

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 May 1;171(9):1032-9. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200408-1029OC. Epub 2005 Feb 11.


Smoking during pregnancy leads to decreased pulmonary function and increased respiratory illness in offspring. Our laboratory has previously demonstrated that many effects of smoking during pregnancy are mediated by nicotine. We now report that vitamin C supplementation can prevent some of the effects of maternal nicotine exposure on pulmonary function of offspring. Timed-pregnant rhesus monkeys were treated with 2 mg/kg/day nicotine bitartrate from Gestation Days 26 to 160. On Gestation Day 160 (term, 165 days) fetuses were delivered by C-section and subjected to pulmonary function testing the following day. Nicotine exposure significantly reduced forced expiratory flows, but supplementation of mothers with 250 mg vitamin C per day prevented the effects of nicotine on expiratory flows. Vitamin C supplementation also prevented the nicotine-induced increases in surfactant apoprotein-B protein. Neither nicotine nor nicotine plus vitamin C significantly affected levels of cortisol or cytokines, which have been shown to affect lung development and surfactant expression. Prenatal nicotine exposure significantly decreased levels of elastin content in the lungs of offspring, and these effects were slightly attenuated by vitamin C. These findings suggest that vitamin C supplementation may potentially be clinically useful to limit the deleterious effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy on offspring's lung function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Elastin / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Respiratory Function Tests


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine
  • Elastin
  • Ascorbic Acid