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

Cite this dataset

Gauthier, Patrick; Holloway, Alison; Vijayan, Mathilakath (2020). Vape flavorants dull sensory perception and cause hyperactivity in developing zebrafish embryos [Dataset]. Dryad.


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 7,000 unique flavors with and without nicotine, and while nicotine is a known neurotoxicant, the effects of vape flavoring 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 neurobehavioral effects. We screened three commonly used aerosolized vape liquids (flavored and flavorless) either with or without nicotine. No neurobehavioral effects were detected in flavorless, nicotine-free VAEs, while the addition of nicotine to this VAE dulled sensory perception. Flavored nicotine-free VAEs also dulled sensory perception and caused hyperactivity in zebrafish embryos. The combination of flavor and nicotine produced largely additive effects. Flavored VAEs without nicotine had similar neuroactive potency as nicotine. Similar effects were also seen in embryos exposed to the pure flavoring compound, cinnamaldehyde. Together, using zebrafish PMR as a high throughput translational behavioral model for prenatal exposure, our results demonstrate that e-cigarette flavorants that we screened elicit neurobehavioral effects worthy of further investigation for long-term neurotoxic potential, and also have the potential to modulate nicotine impact on the developing brain.


The data were collected as described in the methods section of main article.

Usage notes

We include all data and provide R code reproduce the analysis. The included data are formated as .RData files and must be accessed through R. The script files (.R files) included contain all necessary code to access the data and repeat the analyses. Please make sure the .RData files are downloaded to the appropriate folder for assigning your workspace in R.

  • pmr.fitB.me2.Rdata includes data for the blueraspberry vape trials
  • pmr.fitC.me2.Rdata includes data for the cinnamon vape trials
  • pmr.fitF.me2.Rdata includes data for the flavorless vape trials
  • pmr.fit2.me2.Rdata includes data for the cinnamaldehyde trials
  • VAEscript.R includes R code for replicating the analysis of the vape trails
  • Cinnamaldehydescript.R includes R code for replicating the analysis of the cinnamaldehyde trials

Required R libraries are specified in the .R script files. Data are included as data.frame objects in R, with columns representing variables. Raw housekeeping variables remain in the data.frames. 

Variables in the data.frames for vape trials (VAEscript.R) inlcude:

  • v -> time in seconds
  • treatment -> raw treatment labels (housekeeping)
  • col -> column ID on the 96-well plate
  • plate -> 96-well plate ID
  • x -> raw % concentration labels (housekeeping)
  • totaldist -> raw activity
  • conc -> % vape aersol extract in exposure media
  • ID -> subject ID
  • tx -> raw treatment interaction ID labelling (housekeeping)
  • nictoine -> presence or absence ID for nicotine in vapes
  • int -> 3-way treatment interation ID used for nlme analysis
  • flavour -> vape flavour

Variables in the data.frames for cinnamaldehyde trials (Cinnamaldehydescript.R) include:

  • Time -> raw time in seconds (housekeeping)
  • well -> well ID on the 96-well plate
  • totaldist -> raw activity
  • plate -> 96-well plate ID
  • treatment -> % concentration labels
  • col -> column ID on the 96-well plate
  • x -> raw treatment ID
  • ID -> subject ID
  • v -> time in seconds