Menthol flavoring in e-cigarette condensate causes pulmonary dysfunction and cytotoxicity in precision cut lung slices

Julia Herbert, Jacklyn S. Kelty, Jeffrey D. Laskin, Debra L. Laskin, Andrew J. Gow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


E-cigarette consumption is under scrutiny by regulatory authorities due to concerns about product toxicity, lack of manufacturing standards, and increasing reports of e-cigarette- or vaping-associated acute lung injury. In vitro studies have demonstrated cytotoxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress induced by unflavored e-cigarette aerosols and flavoring additives. However, e-cigarette effects on the complex lung parenchyma remain unclear. Herein, the impact of e-cigarette condensates with or without menthol flavoring on functional, structural, and cellular responses was investigated using mouse precision cut lung slices (PCLS). PCLS were exposed to e-cigarette condensates prepared from aerosolized vehicle, nicotine, nicotine þ menthol, and menthol e-fluids at doses from 50 to 500 mM. Doses were normalized to the glycerin content of vehicle. Video-microscopy of PCLS revealed impaired contractile responsiveness of airways to methacholine and dampened ciliary beating following exposure to menthol-containing condensates at concentrations greater than 300 mM. Following 500 mM menthol-containing condensate exposure, epithelial exfoliation in intrabronchial airways was identified in histological sections of PCLS. Measurement of lactate dehydrogenase release, mitochondrial water-soluble-tetrazolium salt-1 conversion, and glutathione content supported earlier findings of nicotine or nicotine þ menthol e-cigarette-induced dose-dependent cytotoxicity and oxidative stress responses. Evaluation of PCLS metabolic activity revealed dose-related impairment of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis after exposure to menthol-containing condensates. Taken together, these data demonstrate prominent menthol-induced pulmonary toxicity and impairment of essential physiological functions in the lung, which warrants concerns about e-cigarette consumer safety and emphasizes the need for further investigations of molecular mechanisms of toxicity and menthol effects in an experimental model of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L345-L357
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


  • e-cigarettes
  • lung toxicity
  • menthol
  • nicotine
  • PCLS
  • precision cut lung slices


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