MicroRNA expression profiling defines the impact of electronic cigarettes on human airway epithelial cells

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While all forms of tobacco exposure have negative health effects, the significance of exposure to electronic cigarettes (eCig) is not fully understood. Here, we studied the global effects of eCig on the micro RNA (miRNA) transcriptome in human lung epithelial cells. Primary human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells differentiated at air-liquid interface were exposed to eCig liquid. Exposure of NHBE to any eCig liquid resulted in the induction of oxidative stress-response genes including GCLM, GCLC, GPX2, NQO1 and HO-1. Vaporization of, and/or the presence of nicotine in, eCig liquid was associated with a greater response. We identified 578 miRNAs dysregulated by eCig exposure in NHBE, and 125 miRNA affected by vaporization of eCig liquid. Nicotine containing eCig vapor displayed the most profound effects upon miRNA expression. We selected 8 miRNAs (29A, 140, 126, 374A, 26A-2, 147B, 941 and 589) for further study. We validated increased expression of multiple miRNAs, including miR126, following eCig exposure. We also found significant reduction in the expression of two miR126 target genes, MYC and MRGPRX3, following exposure. These data demonstrated that eCig exposure has profound effects upon gene expression in human lung epithelial cells, some of which are epigenetically programmed at the level of miRNA regulation.

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Scientific reports

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