The effect of electronic cigarette and tobacco smoke exposure on COPD bronchial epithelial cell inflammatory responses

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2018 Mar 23:13:989-1000. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S157728. eCollection 2018.


Background: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) are used to help smoking cessation. However, these devices contain harmful chemicals, and there are safety concerns. We have investigated the effects of e-cigs on the inflammatory response and viability of COPD bronchial epithelial cells (BECs).

Methods: BECs from COPD patients and controls were exposed to e-cig vapor extract (ECVE) and the levels of interleukin (IL)-6, C-X-C motif ligand 8 (CXCL8), and lactate dehydrogenase release were measured. We also examined the effect of ECVE pretreatment on polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly I:C)-stimulated cytokine release from BECs. Parallel experiments using Calu-3 cells were performed. Comparisons were made with cigarette smoke extract (CSE).

Results: ECVE and CSE caused an increase in the release of IL-6 and CXCL8 from Calu-3 cells. ECVE only caused toxicity in BECs and Calu-3 cells. Furthermore, ECVE and CSE dampened poly I:C-stimulated C-X-C motif ligand 10 release from both cell culture models, reaching statistical significance for CSE at an optical density of 0.3.

Conclusion: ECVE caused toxicity and reduced the antiviral response to poly I:C. This raises concerns over the safety of e-cig use.

Keywords: COPD; air; cigarette smoke; e-cigs; epithelial cells; liquid interface.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Bronchi / drug effects*
  • Bronchi / immunology
  • Bronchi / metabolism
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electric Impedance
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology*
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / immunology
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poly I-C / pharmacology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Vaping / adverse effects*
  • Volatilization


  • Antiviral Agents
  • CXCL8 protein, human
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Smoke
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Poly I-C