The role of ROS/JNK/caspase 3 axis in apoptosis induction by menthol-favored electronic cigarette liquid in human periodontal ligament stem cells


Shanghai Kou Qiang Yi Xue. 2024 Feb;33(1):40-48.


PURPOSE: To explore the cytotoxic effect of a menthol-favored E-liquid on human periodontal ligament stem cells (hPDLSCs), as well as the underlying mechanism of electronic cigarette (E-cig)-induced cell apoptosis.

METHODS: PDLSCs were isolated and cultured from periodontal ligament tissues of healthy premolars extracted for orthodontic reasons. Cells in passage 3 were used to detect the surface markers of stem cells by flow cytometry. Then the cells were exposed to different doses of menthol-favored E-liquid (at 59 mg/L nicotine concentration) in the culture median (the final nicotine concentrations were 0.1 μg/mL, 1.0 μg/mL, 10 μg/mL, 50 μg/mL, 0.1 mg/mL, 0.2 mg/mL and 0.5 mg/mL, respectively) for different period of times (24, 48 and 72 h). The cell viability was analyzed by CCK-8 assay. Cell apoptosis was evaluated by flow cytometry (7-AAD and Annexin V staining) and TUNEL assay. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) production was detected with fluorescence probe DCFH-DA by confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. The protein expression levels associated with ROS/JNK/caspase 3 axis(p-JNK, JNK, c-Jun, p-c-Jun, Bcl-2, Bax and cleaved-caspase 3) were analyzed by Western blot. Immunocytofluorescense staining was applied to evaluate the expression level of p-JNK. After addition of NAC, a ROS scavenger, and MAPK/JNK specific blocker SP600125, their effects on E-cig-induced cell apoptosis were evaluated. Statistical analysis was performed with Graph Pad 5.0 software package.

RESULTS: Human PDLSCs were successfully isolated and cultured and flow cytometry assay showed the mesenchymal stem cell surface biomarkers (CD73, CD90 and CD105) were positively expressed. CCK8 assay indicated cell viability was significantly(P<0.001) different among all concentration groups at various time points (24, 48 or 72 h), and the difference in apoptosis rate among all concentration groups was also statistically significant (P<0.001). After exposure to E-liquid with nicotine concentration ≥50 μg/mL, cell viability was significantly reduced, and the proportion of apoptotic cells and the cellular ROS level was significantly increased in a dose-dependent manner as compared with the control group(0.0 mg/mL). Western blot assay showed E-cig exposure could promote MAPK/JNK phosphorylation in a dose-dependent and time-dependent manner. Either NAC or SP600125 could partially rescue the E-cig-induced cell apoptosis via reversing up-regulation of p-JNK and cleaved caspase 3.

CONCLUSIONS: ROS/JNK/caspase 3 axis is involved in menthol-favored E-liquid-induced apoptosis of hPDLSCs.