Maternal E-Cigarette Exposure in Mice Alters DNA Methylation and Lung Cytokine Expression in Offspring

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Abstract

E-cigarette usage is increasing, especially among the young, with both the general population and physicians perceiving them as a safe alternative to tobacco smoking. Worryingly, e-cigarettes are commonly used by pregnant women. As nicotine is known to adversely affect children in utero, we hypothesized that nicotine delivered via e-cigarettes would negatively affect lung development. To test this, we developed a mouse model of maternal e-vapor (nicotine and nicotine-free) exposure and investigated the impact on the growth and lung inflammation in both offspring and mothers. Female Balb/c mice were exposed to e-fluid vapor containing nicotine (18 mg/ml nicotine E-cigarette [E-cig18], equivalent to two cigarettes per treatment, twice daily,) or nicotine free (E-cig0 mg/ml) from 6 weeks before mating until pups weaned. Male offspring were studied at Postnatal Day (P) 1, P20, and at 13 weeks. The mothers were studied when the pups weaned. In the mothers' lungs, e-cigarette exposure with and without nicotine increased the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α. In adult offspring, TNF-α protein levels were increased in both E-cig18 and E-cig0 groups, whereas IL-1β was suppressed. This was accompanied by global changes in DNA methylation. In this study, we found that e-cigarette exposure during pregnancy adversely affected maternal and offspring lung health. As this occurred with both nicotine-free and nicotine-containing e-vapor, the effects are likely due to by-products of vaporization rather than nicotine.

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