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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2013 Nov 15;305(10):L764-73. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00165.2013. Epub 2013 Sep 20.

Metabolic shift in lung alveolar cell mitochondria following acrolein exposure.

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Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089.


Acrolein, an α,β unsaturated electrophile, is an environmental pollutant released in ambient air from diesel exhausts and cooking oils. This study examines the role of acrolein in altering mitochondrial function and metabolism in lung-specific cells. RLE-6TN, H441, and primary alveolar type II (pAT2) cells were exposed to acrolein for 4 h, and its effect on mitochondrial oxygen consumption rates was studied by XF Extracellular Flux analysis. Low-dose acrolein exposure decreased mitochondrial respiration in a dose-dependent manner because of alteration in the metabolism of glucose in all the three cell types. Acrolein inhibited glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) activity, leading to decreased substrate availability for mitochondrial respiration in RLE-6TN, H441, and pAT2 cells; the reduced GAPDH activity was compensated in pAT2 cells by an increase in the activity of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, the regulatory control of the pentose phosphate pathway. The decrease in pyruvate from glucose metabolism resulted in utilization of alternative sources to support mitochondrial energy production: palmitate-BSA complex increased mitochondrial respiration in RLE-6TN and pAT2 cells. The presence of palmitate in alveolar cells for surfactant biosynthesis may prove to be the alternative fuel source for mitochondrial respiration. Accordingly, a decrease in phosphatidylcholine levels and an increase in phospholipase A2 activity were found in the alveolar cells after acrolein exposure. These findings have implications for understanding the decrease in surfactant levels frequently observed in pathophysiological situations with altered lung function following exposure to environmental toxicants.


glycolysis; palmitate; pulmonary surfactant

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