The cytotoxic effect of volatile organic compounds of the gas phase of cigarette smoke on lung epithelial cells

Free Radic Biol Med. 2003 Feb 1;34(3):345-55. doi: 10.1016/s0891-5849(02)01289-3.


Health effects of cigarette smoke (CS) in humans are well known from both clinical and epidemiological studies. However, the mechanism behind CS toxicity and carcinogenicity remains mainly unknown. Recent studies have pointed to the major importance of the gas phase of CS in generating its cytotoxic effects. In the current study, an exposure system capable of introducing the gas phase of mainstream cigarette smoke deprived of its volatile organic constituents (VOCs) was used to study the role of the nonorganic components of the gas phase on the cytotoxicity of smoke to monolayer cultures of mouse lung epithelial cells. Cell viability was measured by Wst-1 and the lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) assays. In cells treated with increasing doses of mainstream cigarette smoke gas phase (one to nine puffs), a dose-dependent increase in cytotoxicity was observed (one puff, 95% viability; nine puffs, 40% viability). Cell viability of cultures exposed to gas phase with only the nonorganic components was found to be equivalent to control, unexposed cultures, indicating that removal of VOCs resulted in almost eliminating the cytotoxic ability of the gas phase of CS. Furthermore, the removal of VOCs seems to reduce the effects of protein tyrosine nitration mediated through the gas phase constituents. The results obtained suggest the important and decisive role of VOCs in inducing cytotoxic effects.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Gases / chemistry*
  • Gases / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mice
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis
  • Organic Chemicals / toxicity*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Tobacco*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Gases
  • Nitrates
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Proteins
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Tyrosine