Gene Expression Alterations in the Bronchial Epithelium of e-Cigarette Users.


Although e-cigarette (ECIG) use has increased in the United States, their potential health effects remain uncertain. Understanding the effects of tobacco cigarette (TCIG) smoke on bronchial airway epithelial gene expression have previously provided insights into tobacco-related disease pathogenesis. Identifying the impact of ECIGs on airway gene expression could provide insights into their potential long-term health effects. We sought to compare the bronchial airway gene-expression profiles of former TCIG smokers now using ECIGs with the profiles of former and current TCIG smokers.

We performed gene-expression profiling of bronchial epithelial cells collected from current TCIG smokers (n = 9), current ECIG users who are former TCIG smokers (n = 15), and former TCIG smokers (n = 21). We then compared our findings with previous studies of the effects of TCIG use on bronchial epithelium, as well an in vitro model of ECIG exposure.

Among 3,165 genes whose expression varied between the three study groups (q < 0.05), we identified 468 genes altered in ECIG users relative to former smokers (P < .05). Seventy-nine of these genes were up- or down-regulated concordantly among ECIG and TCIG users. We did not detect ECIG-associated gene-expression changes in known pathways associated with TCIG usage. Genes downregulated in ECIG users are enriched among the genes most downregulated by exposure of airway epithelium to ECIG vapor in vitro.

ECIGs induce both distinct and shared patterns of gene expression relative to TCIGs in the bronchial airway epithelium. The concordance of the genes altered in ECIG users and in the in vitro study suggests that genes altered in ECIG users are likely to be changed as the direct effect of ECIG exposure.

  • Brooks DR
  • Corbett SE
  • Dubinett SM
  • Elashoff DA
  • Kleerup E
  • Lenburg ME
  • Liu G
  • Liu H
  • Moses E
  • Nitzberg M
  • O'Connor GT
  • Perdomo C
  • Perdomo C
  • Spira A
  • Wang T
  • Xiao X
PubMed ID
Appears In
Chest, 2019, 156 (4)