Low intensity, long term exposure to tobacco smoke inhibits hippocampal neurogenesis in adult mice

Behav Brain Res. 2016 Apr 1;302:44-52. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2016.01.022. Epub 2016 Jan 12.


Previous data have shown that high dose of nicotine administration or tobacco smoke exposure can reduce cell formation and the survival rate of adult-born neurons in the dentate gyrus. Here, we subjected adult mice to low intensity cigarette smoke exposure over long time periods. We did a 2×30min/day smoke exposure with two cigarettes per occasion over 1- or 2-months. Subsequently, we carried out a systematic quantitative histopathological analysis to assess the number of newborn neurons in the dentate gyrus. To investigate cell proliferation, the exogenous marker 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) was administered on the last experimental day and animals were sacrificed 2h later. To investigate the effect of tobacco smoke on the population of immature neurons, we quantified the number of doublecortin-positive (DCX+) neurons in the same animals. We found that exposing animals to cigarette smoke for 1- or 2-months had no influence on cell proliferation rate, but significantly reduced the number of DCX-positive immature neurons. Our tobacco smoke exposure regimen caused no substantial changes in respiratory functions, but histopathological analysis of the pulmonary tissue revealed a marked perivascular/peribronchial edema formation after 1-month and signs of chronic pulmonary inflammation after 2-months of cigarette smoke exposure. These data demonstrate that even mild exposure to cigarette smoke, without significantly affecting respiratory functions, can have a negative effect on adult-born neurons in the dentate gyrus, when applied over longer time periods. Our data indicate that besides nicotine other factors, such as inflammatory mediators, may also contribute to this effect.

Keywords: BrdU; Cigarette; Dentate gyrus; Doublecortin; Hippocampus; Inflammation; Nicotine; Smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Smoking / pathology*
  • Smoking / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • doublecortin protein
  • Bromodeoxyuridine