Addiction biology

Molecular basis of reduced birth weight in smoking pregnant women: mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis.

PMID 25186090


In utero exposure of fetuses to tobacco is associated with reduced birth weight. We hypothesized that this may be due to the toxic effect of carbon monoxide (CO) from tobacco, which has previously been described to damage mitochondria in non-pregnant adult smokers. Maternal peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), newborn cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMCs) and placenta were collected from 30 smoking pregnant women and their newborns and classified as moderate and severe smoking groups, and compared to a cohort of 21 non-smoking controls. A biomarker for tobacco consumption (cotinine) was assessed by ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). The following parameters were measured in all tissues: mitochondrial chain complex IV [cytochrome c oxidase (COX)] activity by spectrophotometry, mitochondrial DNA levels by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, oxidative stress by spectrophotometric lipid peroxide quantification, mitochondrial mass through citrate synthase spectrophotometric activity and apoptosis by Western blot parallelly confirmed by TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labelling) assay in placenta. Newborns from smoking pregnant women presented reduced birth weight by 10.75 percent. Materno-fetal mitochondrial and apoptotic PBMC and CBMC parameters showed altered and correlated values regarding COX activity, mitochondrial DNA, oxidative stress and apoptosis. Placenta partially compensated this dysfunction by increasing mitochondrial number; even so ratios of oxidative stress and apoptosis were increased. A CO-induced mitotoxic and apoptotic fingerprint is present in smoking pregnant women and their newborn, with a lack of filtering effect from the placenta. Tobacco consumption correlated with a reduction in birth weight and mitochondrial and apoptotic impairment, suggesting that both could be the cause of the reduced birth weight in smoking pregnant women.