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Inhal Toxicol. 2012 Jul;24(8):518-27. doi: 10.3109/08958378.2012.696221.

Exposure to diesel exhaust upregulates COX-2 expression in ApoE knockout mice.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.



We have shown that diesel exhaust (DE) inhalation caused progression of atherosclerosis; however, the mechanisms are not fully understood. We hypothesize that exposure to DE upregulates cyclooxygenase (COX) expression and activity, which could play a role in DE-induced atherosclerosis.


ApoE knockout mice (30-week old) fed with regular chow were exposed to DE (at 200 µg/m(3) of particulate matter) or filtered air (control) for 7 weeks (6 h/day, 5 days/week). The protein and mRNA expression of COX-1 and COX-2 were evaluated by immunohistochemistry analysis and quantitative real-time PCR, respectively. To examine COX activity, thoracic aortae were mounted in a wire myograph, and phenylephrine (PE)-stimulated vasoconstriction was measured with and without the presence of COX antagonists (indomethacin). COX-2 activity was further assessed by urine 2,3-dinor-6-keto PGF(1α) level, a major metabolite of prostacyclin I(2) (PGI(2)).


Immunohistochemistry analysis demonstrates that DE exposure enhanced COX-2 expression in both thoracic aorta (p < 0.01) and aortic root (p < 0.03), with no modification of COX-1 expression. The increased COX-2 expression was positively correlated with smooth muscle cell content in aortic lesions (R(2) = 0.4081, p < 0.008). The fractional changes of maximal vasoconstriction in the presence of indomethacin was attenuated by 3-fold after DE exposure (p < 0.02). Urine 2,3-dinor-6-keto PGF(1α) level was 15-fold higher in DE group than the control (p < 0.007). The mRNA expression of COX-2 (p < 0.006) and PGI synthase (p < 0.02), but not COX-1, was significantly augmented after DE exposure.


We show that DE inhalation enhanced COX-2 expression, which is also associated with phenotypic changes of aortic lesion.

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