A 28-day rat inhalation study with an integrated molecular toxicology endpoint demonstrates reduced exposure effects for a prototypic modified risk tobacco product compared with conventional cigarettes

Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Jun;68:204-17. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2014.02.034. Epub 2014 Mar 12.


Towards a systems toxicology-based risk assessment, we investigated molecular perturbations accompanying histopathological changes in a 28-day rat inhalation study combining transcriptomics with classical histopathology. We demonstrated reduced biological activity of a prototypic modified risk tobacco product (pMRTP) compared with the reference research cigarette 3R4F. Rats were exposed to filtered air or to three concentrations of mainstream smoke (MS) from 3R4F, or to a high concentration of MS from a pMRTP. Histopathology revealed concentration-dependent changes in response to 3R4F that were irritative stress-related in nasal and bronchial epithelium, and inflammation-related in the lung parenchyma. For pMRTP, significant changes were seen in the nasal epithelium only. Transcriptomics data were obtained from nasal and bronchial epithelium and lung parenchyma. Concentration-dependent gene expression changes were observed following 3R4F exposure, with much smaller changes for pMRTP. A computational-modeling approach based on causal models of tissue-specific biological networks identified cell stress, inflammation, proliferation, and senescence as the most perturbed molecular mechanisms. These perturbations correlated with histopathological observations. Only weak perturbations were observed for pMRTP. In conclusion, a correlative evaluation of classical histopathology together with gene expression-based computational network models may facilitate a systems toxicology-based risk assessment, as shown for a pMRTP.

Keywords: Computational network model; Histopathology; Systems toxicology; Tobacco-heating; Transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Cotinine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Endpoint Determination / methods*
  • Female
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Male
  • Nicotine / analogs & derivatives
  • Nicotine / urine
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Respiratory Mucosa / drug effects
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco / chemistry*
  • Tobacco Products / toxicity*
  • Transcriptome


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • norcotinine
  • hydroxycotinine
  • Nicotine
  • nornicotine
  • Carboxyhemoglobin
  • Cotinine