Dysregulated repair and inflammatory responses by e‐cigarette derived inhaled nicotine and humectant propylene glycol in a sex dependent manner in mouse lung

Qixin Wang, Naushad Ahmad Khan, Thivanka Muthumalage, Gina R. Lawyer, Samantha R. McDonough, Tsai‐Der Chuang, Ming Gong, Isaac K. Sundar, Virender K. Rehan, Irfan Rahman

Nicotine inhalation via electronic cigarettes (e‐cigs) is an emerging concern. However, little is known about the acute toxicity in the lungs following inhalation of nicotine containing e‐cig aerosols. We hypothesized that acute exposure to aerosolized nicotine causes lung toxicity by eliciting inflammatory and dysregulated repair responses. Adult C57BL/6J mice were exposed 2 hours daily for 3 days to e‐cig aerosols containing propylene glycol (PG) with or without nicotine. Acute exposure to nicotine‐containing e‐cig aerosols induced inflammatory cell influx (neutrophils and CD8a+ T lymphocytes), and release of pro‐inflammatory cytokines in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid in a sex‐dependent manner. Inhalation of e‐cig aerosol containing PG alone significantly augmented the lung levels of various homeostasis/repair mediators (PPARγ, ADRP, ACTA2, CTNNB1, LEF1, β‐catenin, E‐cadherin, and MMP2) in a sex‐dependent manner when compared to air controls. These findings were accompanied by an increase in protein abundance and altered gene expression of lipogenic markers (PPARγ, ADRP) and myogenic markers (fibronectin, α‐smooth muscle actin and β‐catenin), suggesting a dysregulated repair response in mouse lungs. Furthermore, exposure to nicotine‐containing e‐cig aerosols or PG alone differentially affected the release of pro‐inflammatory cytokines in healthy and COPD human 3D EpiAirway tissues. Overall, acute exposure to nicotine‐containing e‐cig aerosols was sufficient to elicit a pro‐inflammatory response and altered mRNA and protein levels of myogenic, lipogenic, and extracellular matrix markers in mouse lung in a sex‐dependent manner. Thus, acute exposure to inhaled nicotine via e‐cig leads to dysregulated repair and inflammatory responses, which may lead to airway remodeling in the lungs.


electronic cigarettes, EpiAirway (AIR-100), AIR-100-COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), IL-6, IL-8, PGE-2

Materials Tested

propylene glycol, nicotine

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