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Inhal Toxicol. 2016 Jul;28(8):374-82. doi: 10.1080/08958378.2016.1185199.

Differential expression of pro-inflammatory and oxidative stress mediators induced by nitrogen dioxide and ozone in primary human bronchial epithelial cells.

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a Curriculum in Toxicology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine , Chapel Hill , NC , USA .
b Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine , Chapel Hill , NC , USA .
c Environmental Public Health Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency , Chapel Hill , NC , USA.



NO2 and O3 are ubiquitous air toxicants capable of inducing lung damage to the respiratory epithelium. Due to their oxidizing capabilities, these pollutants have been proposed to target specific biological pathways, but few publications have compared the pathways activated.


This work will test the premise that NO2 and O3 induce toxicity by activating similar cellular pathways.


Primary human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs, n = 3 donors) were exposed for 2 h at an air-liquid interface to 3 ppm NO2, 0.75 ppm O3, or filtered air and harvested 1 h post-exposure. To give an overview of pathways that may be influenced by each exposure, gene expression was measured using PCR arrays for toxicity and oxidative stress. Based on the results, genes were selected to quantify whether expression changes were changed in a dose- and time-response manner using NO2 (1, 2, 3, or 5 ppm), O3 (0.25, 0.50, 0.75, or 1.00 ppm), or filtered air and harvesting 0, 1, 4 and 24 h post-exposure.


Using the arrays, genes related to oxidative stress were highly induced with NO2 while expression of pro-inflammatory and vascular function genes was found subsequent to O3. NO2 elicited the greatest HMOX1 response, whereas O3 more greatly induced IL-6, IL-8 and PTGS2 expression. Additionally, O3 elicited a greater response 1 h post-exposure and NO2 produced a maximal response after 4 h.


We have demonstrated that these two oxidant gases stimulate differing mechanistic responses in vitro and these responses occur at dissimilar times.


In vitro; inflammation; nitrogen dioxide; oxidant; oxidative stress; ozone

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