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Cell Cycle. 2010 Jun 1;9(11):2170-6. Epub 2010 Jun 1.

DNA damage response induced by exposure of human lung adenocarcinoma cells to smoke from tobacco- and nicotine-free cigarettes.

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Brander Cancer Research Institute and Department of Pathology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA.


Cigarette smoke (CS) is the major cause of lung cancer and contributes to the development of other malignancies. Attempts have been made to construct reduced toxicity cigarettes, presumed to have diminished genotoxic potential. One such product on the market is the tobacco and nicotine free (T&N-free) cigarette type made from lettuce and herbal extracts. We have recently developed a sensitive assay of the genotoxicity of CS based on cytometric analysis of induction of the DNA damage response (DDR) in normal human pulmonary endothelial or A549 pulmonary adenocarcinoma cells. In the present study, we observed that exposure of A549 cells to CS from T/N-free cigarettes induced a smoke-dose dependent DDR as evidenced by phosphorylation (activation) of the Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) protein kinase and of the histone H2AX (γH2AX). The extent of DDR induced by T&N-free smoke was distinctly greater than that induced by comparable doses of CS from reference cigarettes (2R4F) containing tobacco and nicotine. The pattern of DDR induced by T&N-free smoke was similar to that of 2R4F cigarettes in terms of the cell cycle phase specificity and involvement of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The data also imply that similar to 2R4F exposure of cells to T/N-free smoke leads to formation of double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs) resulting from collapse of replication forks upon collision with the primary ssDNA lesions induced by smoke. Since DSBs are potentially carcinogenic our data indicate that smoking tobacco and nicotine-free cigarettes is at least as hazardous as smoking cigarettes containing tobacco and nicotine.

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