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Inhal Toxicol. 2011 Jun;23(7):363-71. doi: 10.3109/08958378.2011.576278.

Molecular and cellular mechanism of lung injuries due to exposure to sulfur mustard: a review.

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Research Center of Chemical Injuries, Baqiyatallah Medical Sciences University, Tehran, Iran.


Sulfur mustard (SM), a potent chemical weapon agent, was used by Iraqi forces against Iranian in the Iraq-Iran war (1981-1989). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a late toxic pulmonary consequence after SM exposure. The COPD observed in these patients is unique (described as Mustard Lung) and to some extent different from COPD resulted from other well-known causes. Several mechanisms have been hypothesized to contribute to the pathogenesis of COPD including oxidative stress, disruption of the balance between apoptosis and replenishment, proteinase-antiproteinase imbalance and inflammation. However, it is not obvious which of these pathways are relevant to the pathogenesis of mustard lung. In this paper, we reviewed studies addressing the pathogenicity of mustard lung, and reduced some recent ambiguities in this field. There is ample evidence in favor of crucial role of both oxidative stress and apoptosis as two known mechanisms that are more involved in pathogenesis of mustard lung comparing to COPD. However, according to available evidences there are no such considerable data supporting neither proteolytic activity nor inflammation mechanism as the main underlying pathogenesis in Mustard Lung.

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