Cigarette smoke but not electronic cigarette aerosol activates a stress response in human coronary artery endothelial cells in culture

Jack E. Teasdale, Andrew C. Newby, Nicholas J. Timpson, Marcus R. Munafò*, Stephen J. White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
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Background. It is generally acknowledged that e-cigarettes are unlikely to be as harmful as conventional cigarettes, but there is little data that quantifies their relative harms. We investigated the biological response to e-cigarette aerosol exposure (versus conventional cigarette smoke exposure) at the cellular level, by exposing human coronary artery endothelial cells (HCAEC) to aqueous filtered extracts of e-cigarette aerosol or cigarette smoke and looking at gene expression changes consistent with a stress response. This included genes controlled by the oxidant-stress sensing transcription factor NFR2 (NFE2L2), and cytochrome P450 family members.

Methods. Cigarette smoke extract (CSE) was created using mainstream smoke from a single cigarette drawn through 10 ml of endothelial cell growth media MV2. Electronic cigarette aerosol extract (eCAE) was created using the same apparatus, using a constant power output of 10.8 w (4.2 V) and 18mg/ml nicotine solution. eCAE was generated using 5 cycles of 5 second heat with at least 10 seconds in between each puff to allow the coil to cool, air being drawn through the device at 70 ml/minute.

Results. HCAEC responded to the noxious components in CSE, resulting in activation of NRF2 and upregulation of cytochrome p450. However, eCAE did not induce NRF2 nuclear localisation, upregulation of NRF2-activated genes, or the upregulation of cytochrome p450.

Conclusions. The use of e-cigarettes as a substitute for conventional cigarettes is likely to reduce immediate tobacco-related harm, at least with respect to cardiovascular harms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-260
Number of pages5
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Early online date22 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


  • Cigarettes
  • E-cigarettes
  • Human coronary artery cells
  • Stress response


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