Impact of Electronic Cigarettes, Heated Tobacco Products and Conventional Cigarettes on the Generation of Oxidative Stress and Genetic and Epigenetic Lesions in Human Bronchial Epithelial BEAS-2B Cells

October 10, 2023

Gianni Zarcone , Marie Lenski , Thomas Martinez, Smaïl Talahari, Ophélie Simonin, Guillaume Garçon, Delphine Allorge, Fabrice Nesslany, Jean-Marc Lo-Guidice, Anne Platel and Sébastien Anthérieu
Univ. Lille, CHU Lille, Institut Pasteur de Lille, ULR 4483, IMPECS-IMPact de l’Environnement Chimique sur la Santé, F-59000 Lille, France;

Electronic cigarettes (e-cig) and heated tobacco products (HTP) are often used as smoking cessation aids, while the harm reduction effects of these alternatives to cigarettes are still the subject of controversial debate, in particular regarding their carcinogenic potential. The objective of this study is to compare the effects of e-cig, HTP and conventional cigarette emissions on the generation of oxidative stress and genetic and epigenetic lesions in human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells. Our results show that HTP were less cytotoxic than conventional cigarettes while e-cig were not substantially cytotoxic in BEAS-2B cells. E-cig had no significant effect on the Nrf2 pathway, whereas HTP and cigarettes increased the binding activity of Nrf2 to antioxidant response elements and the expression of its downstream targets HMOX1 and NQO1. Concordantly, only HTP and cigarettes induced oxidative DNA damage and significantly increased DNA strand breaks and chromosomal aberrations. Neither histone modulations nor global DNA methylation changes were found after acute exposure, regardless of the type of emissions. In conclusion, this study reveals that HTP, unlike e-cig, elicit a biological response very similar to that of cigarettes, but only after a more intensive exposure: both tobacco products induce cytotoxicity, Nrf2-dependent oxidative stress and genetic lesions in human epithelial pulmonary cells. Therefore, the health risk of HTP should not be underestimated and animal studies are required in order to determine the tumorigenic potential of these emerging products.

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