Perinatal exposure to ethanol in rats induces permanent disturbances of breathing and chemosensitivity during adulthood

Christophe J. Dubois, Olivier Pierrefiche
Neuroscience Letters. 2020-06-01; : 135219
DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2020.135219

Perinatal exposure to drugs of abuse, including alcohol (ethanol), is known to impinge the development of respiratory function. However, most studies described the short-term effects of these exposures, focusing mostly on the early postnatal life. After exposure to ethanol during gestation and lactation we have previously shown that 3 to 4 week-old rat exhibit chronic hypoventilation and an altered response to hypoxia at the end of ethanol exposure. However, whether these deficits are reversible following ethanol withdrawal remained unknown. Here, we investigated through whole-body plethysmography the respiratory activity of 2 months-old rats exposed to ethanol from gestation to weaning followed by one month of ethanol withdrawal. After ethanol withdrawal, rats persistently exhibited a significant reduction in respiratory frequency without change in tidal volume associated to a lower arterial blood oxygen content. In addition, the response to hypoxia in these rats was reduced whereas the response to hypercapnia remained unaltered. In conclusion perinatal exposure to ethanol in rats, unlike exposure to cocaine, morphine or nicotine, is characterized by selective alterations of basal respiratory activity and chemosensitivity that persist long after withdrawal.

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