Nicotine alters estrogen receptor-beta-regulated inflammasome activity and exacerbates ischemic brain damage in female rats

Nathan D. D’Adesky, Juan Pablo De Rivero Vaccari, Pallab Bhattacharya, Marc Schatz, Miguel A. Perez-Pinzon, Helen M. Bramlett, Ami P. Raval

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Smoking is a preventable risk factor for stroke and smoking-derived nicotine exacerbates post-ischemic damage via inhibition of estrogen receptor beta (ER-β) signaling in the brain of female rats. ER-β regulates inflammasome activation in the brain. Therefore, we hypothesized that chronic nicotine exposure activates the inflammasome in the brain, thus exacerbating ischemic brain damage in female rats. To test this hypothesis, adult female Sprague-Dawley rats (6-7 months old) were exposed to nicotine (4.5 mg/kg/day) or saline for 16 days. Subsequently, brain tissue was collected for immunoblot analysis. In addition, another set of rats underwent transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO; 90 min) with or without nicotine exposure. One month after tMCAO, histopathological analysis revealed a significant increase in infarct volume in the nicotine-treated group (64.24 ± 7.3 mm3; mean ± SEM; n = 6) compared to the saline-treated group (37.12 ± 7.37 mm3; n = 7, p < 0.05). Immunoblot analysis indicated that nicotine increased cortical protein levels of caspase-1, apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a CARD (ASC) and pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β by 88% (p < 0.05), 48% (p < 0.05) and 149% (p < 0.05), respectively, when compared to the saline-treated group. Next, using an in vitro model of ischemia in organotypic slice cultures, we tested the hypothesis that inhibition of nicotine-induced inflammasome activation improves post-ischemic neuronal survival. Accordingly, slices were exposed to nicotine (100 ng/mL; 14-16 days) or saline, followed by treatment with the inflammasome inhibitor isoliquiritigenin (ILG; 24 h) prior to oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD; 45 min). Quantification of neuronal death demonstrated that inflammasome inhibition significantly decreased nicotine-induced ischemic neuronal death. Overall, this study shows that chronic nicotine exposure exacerbates ischemic brain damage via activation of the inflammasome in the brain of female rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1330
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Estrogen
  • Inflammasome
  • Nicotine
  • Smoking
  • Stroke
  • Women’s health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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