The inflammatory biomarker YKL-40 is elevated in the serum, but not the sputum, of E-cigarette users

Mario F. Perez, Nkiruka C. Atuegwu, Eric M. Mortensen, Cheryl Oncken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Rationale: E-cigarettes are popular among youth and young adults and have been shown to be associated with pulmonary conditions such as asthma and COPD. YKL-40 may serve as a biomarker of pulmonary diseases and may predict the loss of pulmonary function among smokers. We hypothesized that similar to cigarette smokers, e-cigarette users will have higher levels of YKL-40 compared to non-tobacco users. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of adults between 18 and 55 years old. Inclusion criteria were: exclusive e-cigarette use or cigarette smoking for ≥ 1 year or no history of tobacco use. Participants with a history of pulmonary illness, atopy, medications (except birth control pills), marijuana, and illegal substance use were excluded. Custom Multiplex ELISA was used to measure YKL-40 and other biomarker levels in the serum and induced sputum of the participants. Multivariable linear regression was used to compare the levels of YLK-40 in healthy participants, e-cigarette, and cigarette users after adjusting for age, sex, and BMI. Results: We recruited 20 healthy controls, 23 cigarette smokers, and 22 exclusive e-cigarette users. Serum YKL-40 (ng/ml) was significantly higher in e-cigarette users (Median 21.2 [IQR 12.1-24.0] ng/ml) when compared to controls (12.2 [IQR 8.7-18.1] ng/ml, p = 0.016) but comparable to cigarette smokers (21.6 [IQR 11.62-51.7] ng/ml, p = 0.31). No significant differences were found in the serum or sputum of the other biomarkers tested. Conclusion: The inflammatory biomarker, YKL-40 is elevated in the serum but not the sputum of e-cigarette users with no reported pulmonary disease. Further research is necessary to characterize this association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-66
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Lung Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • E-cigarette
  • YKl-40
  • serum
  • sputum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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