Publication Date

Fall 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Rachel French


developmental delay, dose response, Drosophila melanogaster, effects, Nicotine, survival

Subject Areas

Biology; Toxicology; Molecular biology


Approximately 12%-20% of pregnant women smoke at some point during pregnancy, and 10% of pregnant women are reported to have smoked during the last 3 months of pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy leads to developmental health risks for the fetus and child, including increased mortality, low birth weight, and developmental delays. The direct molecular targets of nicotine are nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) due to the similarities in structure between nicotine and acetylcholine. However, in many cases, it remains unclear what molecular events downstream of nAChRs lead to the deleterious effects of nicotine on development. We have established Drosophila melanogaster as a genetic model system to study the developmental effects of nicotine. So far, we have established that nicotine reduces survival and increases development time in a dose-responsive manner. In addition, we have evidence that developmental nicotine exposure may reduce adult body weight, and that ethanol and nicotine act in a non-additive fashion to reduce survival. Finally, we show that nicotine exposure does not appear to affect brain size in developing larvae. Our results show that the effects of nicotine on fly development are similar to those seen in mammals, and establish Drosophila as a model organism for the study of the deleterious effects of nicotine on development.