The use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), also known as electronic-cigarettes (e-cigs), has raised serious public health concerns, especially in light of the 2019 outbreak of e-cig or vaping product use-associated acute lung injury (EVALI). While these cases have mostly been linked to ENDS that contain vitamin E acetate, there is limited research that has focused on the chronic pulmonary effects of the delivery vehicles (i.e., without nicotine and flavoring). Thus, we investigated lung function and immune responses in a mouse model following exposure to the nearly ubiquitous e-cig delivery vehicles, vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG), used with a specific 70%/30% ratio, with or without vanilla flavoring. We hypothesized that mice exposed sub-acutely to these e-cig aerosols would exhibit lung inflammation and altered lung function. Adult female C57BL/6 mice (n= 11-12 per group) were exposed to filtered air, 70%/30% VG/PG, or 70%/30% VG/PG with a French vanilla flavoring for 2 h a day for 6 weeks. Prior to sacrifice, lung function was assessed. At sacrifice, broncho-alveolar lavage fluid and lung tissue were collected for lipid mediator analysis, flow cytometry, histopathology, and gene expression analyses. Exposures to VG/PG + vanilla e-cig aerosol increased lung tidal and minute volumes and tissue damping. Immunophenotyping of lung immune cells revealed an increased number of dendritic cells, CD4+ T cells, and CD19+ B cells in the VG/PG-exposed group compared to air, irrespective of the presence of vanilla flavoring. Quantification of bioactive lung lipids demonstrated a >3-fold increase of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an anti-inflammatory mediator, and a 2-fold increase of 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (12-HETE), another inflammatory mediator, following VG/PG exposure, with or without vanilla flavoring. This suggests that e-cig aerosol vehicles may affect immunoregulatory molecules. We also found that the two e-cig aerosols dysregulated the expression of lung genes. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis revealed that the gene networks that are dysregulated by the VG/PG e-cig aerosol are associated with metabolism of cellular proteins and lipids. Overall, our findings demonstrate that VG and PG, the main constituents of e-liquid formulations, when aerosolized through an e-cig device, are not harmless to the lungs, since they disrupt immune homeostasis.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR SCIENCES
Szafran, B. N., Pinkston, R., Perveen, Z., Ross, M. K., Morgan, T., Paulsen, D. B., Penn, A. L., Kaplan, B. L., & Noel, A. (2020). Electronic-Cigarette Vehicles and Flavoring Affect Lung Function and Immune Responses in a Murine Model. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR SCIENCES, 21 (17) https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21176022