Frontal Cortex Transcriptome Analysis of Mice Exposed to Electronic Cigarettes During Early Life Stages

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Apr 12;13(4):417. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13040417.


Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), battery-powered devices containing nicotine, glycerin, propylene glycol, flavorings, and other substances, are increasing in popularity. They pose a potential threat to the developing brain, as nicotine is a known neurotoxicant. We hypothesized that exposure to e-cigarettes during early life stages induce changes in central nervous system (CNS) transcriptome associated with adverse neurobiological outcomes and long-term disease states. To test the hypothesis, pregnant C57BL/6 mice were exposed daily (via whole body inhalation) throughout gestation (3 h/day; 5 days/week) to aerosols produced from e-cigarettes either with nicotine (13-16 mg/mL) or without nicotine; following birth, pups and dams were exposed together to e-cigarette aerosols throughout lactation beginning at postnatal day (PND) 4-6 and using the same exposure conditions employed during gestational exposure. Following exposure, frontal cortex recovered from ~one-month-old male and female offspring were excised and analyzed for gene expression by RNA Sequencing (RNA-Seq). Comparisons between the treatment groups revealed that e-cigarette constituents other than nicotine might be partly responsible for the observed biological effects. Transcriptome alterations in both offspring sexes and treatment groups were all significantly associated with downstream adverse neurobiological outcomes. Results from this study demonstrate that e-cigarette exposure during early life alters CNS development potentially leading to chronic neuropathology.

Keywords: RNA Sequencing; central nervous system; development; e-cigarettes; frontal cortex; nicotine; pathway analysis; transcriptome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Glycerol / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology*
  • Propylene Glycol / adverse effects
  • Transcriptome / drug effects*


  • Propylene Glycol
  • Nicotine
  • Glycerol