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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2012 Apr;237(4):429-34. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2011.011202. Epub 2012 Mar 27.

Exposure of alveolar macrophages to polybrominated diphenyl ethers suppresses the release of pro-inflammatory products in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences, University of New Hampshire, 129 Main St, Kendall Hall, Durham, NH 03824, USA.


Inhalation of chemical pollutants has been associated with a reduced immune response in humans. Inhalation of dust is a major route of exposure for one endocrine-disrupting chemical and suspected xenoestrogen, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); however, the impact of PBDEs on immune function is unclear. The objective of this study was to investigate the action of PBDEs on cytokine and eicosanoid release by alveolar macrophages and determine whether the effects are mediated via the estrogen receptor. The production of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-1β, IL-10 and prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) by porcine alveolar macrophages exposed to different concentrations of the pentabrominated diphenyl ether mixture, DE-71, were measured; cells were also exposed to varying concentrations of 17β-estradiol and the selective estrogen receptor-modulating agent, tamoxifen. Cells exposed to PBDEs released significantly less pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α and IL-6) and PGE(2) compared with controls; IL-1β and IL-10 were not detected in the culture medium. Cells exposed to 17β-estradiol released significantly less TNF-α compared with controls, an effect that was reversed by the addition of tamoxifen; tamoxifen had no effect on the inhibition of TNF-α release by PBDEs. Although the suppression of TNF-α with DE-71 was similar to that of estrogen, the inhibitory effects of DE-71 were not found to be dependent on the estrogen receptor. Findings of this study suggest that chronic exposure to PBDEs suppressed innate immunity in vitro. Whether the immunosuppressant effects of PBDEs occur in vivo, remains to be determined.

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