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Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 13;6:19272. doi: 10.1038/srep19272.

Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Plasma Cytokines, and Heart Rate Variability.

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State Key Laboratory of Environmental Health (Incubating), School of Public Health, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei, China.
The Institute for Chemical Carcinogenesis, The State Key Lab of Respiratory Disease, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.
Department of Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.
Institute of Industrial Health, Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation, Wuhan, Hubei, China.
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA.
Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA.
Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.


Epidemiological studies have suggested associations between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heart rate variability (HRV). However, the roles of plasma cytokines in these associations are limited. In discovery stage of this study, we used Human Cytokine Antibody Arrays to examine differences in the concentrations of 280 plasma cytokines between 8 coke-oven workers and 16 community residents. We identified 19 cytokines with significant different expression (fold change ≥2 or ≤-2, and q-value <5%) between exposed workers and controls. 4 cytokines were selected to validate in 489 coke-oven workers by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays in validation stage. We found OH-PAHs were inversely associated with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (p < 0.05), and interquartile range (IQR) increases in OH-PAHs were associated with >16% BDNF decreases. Additionally, OH-PAHs were positively associated with activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule (ALCAM) and C-reactive protein (CRP) (p < 0.05), and IQR increases in OH-PAHs were associated with >20% increases in CRP. We also found significant associations between these cytokines and HRV (p < 0.05), and IQR increases in BDNF and CRP were associated with >8% decreases in HRV. Our results indicated PAH exposure was associated with plasma cytokines, and higher cytokines were associated with decreased HRV, but additional human and potential mechanistic studies are needed.

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