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Part Fibre Toxicol. 2007 Jun 7;4:5.

Relationship between redox activity and chemical speciation of size-fractionated particulate matter.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.



Although the mechanisms of airborne particulate matter (PM) related health effects remain incompletely understood, one emerging hypothesis is that these adverse effects derive from oxidative stress, initiated by the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) within affected cells. Typically, ROS are formed in cells through the reduction of oxygen by biological reducing agents, with the catalytic assistance of electron transfer enzymes and redox active chemical species such as redox active organic chemicals and metals. The purpose of this study was to relate the electron transfer ability, or redox activity, of the PM samples to their content in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and various inorganic species. The redox activity of the samples has been shown to correlate with the induction of the stress protein, hemeoxygenase-1.


Size-fractionated (i.e. < 0.15; < 2.5 and 2.5 - 10 microm in diameter) ambient PM samples were collected from four different locations in the period from June 2003 to July 2005, and were chemically analyzed for elemental and organic carbon, ions, elements and trace metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The redox activity of the samples was evaluated by means of the dithiothreitol activity assay and was related to their chemical speciation by means of correlation analysis. Our analysis indicated a higher redox activity on a per PM mass basis for ultrafine (< 0.15 microm) particles compared to those of larger sizes. The PM redox activity was highly correlated with the organic carbon (OC) content of PM as well as the mass fractions of species such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and selected metals.


The results of this work demonstrate the utility of the dithiothreitol assay for quantitatively assessing the redox potential of airborne particulate matter from a wide range of sources. Studies to characterize the redox activity of PM from various sources throughout the Los Angeles basin are currently underway.

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