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Toxicol Sci. 2011 Nov;124(1):88-98. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfr211. Epub 2011 Aug 27.

Long-term exposure to ambient fine particulate pollution induces insulin resistance and mitochondrial alteration in adipose tissue.

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  • 1Division of Environmental Health Sciences, College of Public Health, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


We have previously shown that chronic exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (less than 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter, PM₂.₅) pollution in conjunction with high-fat diet induces insulin resistance through alterations in inflammatory pathways. In this study, we evaluated the effects of PM₂.₅ exposure over a substantive duration of a rodent's lifespan and focused on the impact of long-term exposure on adipose structure and function. C57BL/6 mice were exposed to PM₂.₅ or filtered air (FA) (6 h/day, 5 days/week) for duration of 10 months in Columbus, OH. At the end of the exposure, PM₂.₅-exposed mice demonstrated insulin resistance (IR) and a decrease in glucose tolerance compared with the FA-exposed group. Although there were no significant differences in circulating cytokines between PM₂.₅- and FA-exposed groups, circulating adiponectin and leptin were significantly decreased in PM₂.₅-exposed group. PM₂.₅ exposure also led to inflammatory response and oxidative stress as evidenced by increase of Nrf2-regulated antioxidant genes. Additionally, PM₂.₅ exposure decreased mitochondrial count in visceral adipose and mitochondrial size in interscapular adipose depots, which were associated with reduction of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) expression and downregulation of brown adipocyte-specific gene profiles. These findings suggest that long-term ambient PM₂.₅ exposure induces impaired glucose tolerance, IR, inflammation, and mitochondrial alteration, and thus, it is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes.

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