Vape flavourants dull sensory perception and cause hyperactivity in developing zebrafish embryos

E-cigarette use (vaping) during pregnancy has been increasing, and the potential exists for the developing brain in utero to be exposed to chemical constituents in the vape. Vapes come in over 7000 unique flavours with and without nicotine, and while nicotine is a known neurotoxicant, the effects of vape flavouring alone, in the absence of nicotine, on brain function are not well understood. Here, we performed a screen of vape aerosol extracts (VAEs) to determine the potential for prenatal neurotoxicity using the zebrafish embryo photomotor response (PMR)—a translational biosensor of neurobehavioural effects. We screened three commonly used aerosolized vape liquids (flavoured and flavourless) either with or without nicotine. No neurobehavioural effects were detected in flavourless, nicotine-free VAEs, while the addition of nicotine to this VAE dulled sensory perception. Flavoured nicotine-free VAEs also dulled sensory perception and caused hyperactivity in zebrafish embryos. The combination of flavour and nicotine produced largely additive effects. Flavoured VAEs without nicotine had similar neuroactive potency to nicotine. Together, using zebrafish PMR as a high throughput translational behavioural model for prenatal exposure, our results demonstrate that e-cigarette flavourants that we screened elicit neurobehavioural effects worthy of further investigation for long-term neurotoxic potential and also have the potential to modulate nicotine impact on the developing brain.


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