Unique pulmonary immunotoxicological effects of urban PM are not recapitulated solely by carbon black, diesel exhaust or coal fly ash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Exposure to particulate matter (PM) is increasing worldwide as a result of increased human activity, the rapid industrialization of developing countries, and effects of climate change. Adverse effects of PM on human health are well documented, and because PM exposure occurs mostly through the airways, PM has especially deleterious impact on the lungs. Objective We investigated whether surrogate PM particles like carbon black (CB), diesel exhaust particle (DEP), coal fly ash (CFA) can recapitulate the allergic airway inflammatory response induced by urban particulate matter. Methods We compared the pro-inflammatory potential of urban PM collected from New York (NYC) and Baltimore (Balt) with CB, DEP and CFA surrogate PM particles. Eight to ten weeks old BALB/cJ mice were exposed through the airways to particulate material, and markers of airway inflammation were determined. Specifically, we assessed cellular influx, mucus production, lung function, cytokine levels as well as immune cell profiling of the lungs. Results Herein, we demonstrate that exposure to equivalent mass of stand-alone surrogate PM particles like CB, DEP and CFA, fails to induce significant airway inflammatory response seen after similar exposure to urban PMs. Specifically, we observe that PM collected from New York (NYC) and Baltimore city (Balt) triggers a mixed Th2/Th17 response accompanied by eosinophilic and neutrophilic influx, mucus production and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). Although the immune profile of NYC and Baltimore PMs are similar, they demonstrate considerable differences in their potency. Baltimore PM induced more robust airway inflammation, AHR, and Th2 cytokine production, possibly due to the greater metal content in Baltimore PM. Conclusions Urban particulate matter with its unique physiochemical properties and heterogeneous composition elicits a mixed Th2/Th17 allergic airway response that is not seen after similar exposures to surrogate PM particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-313
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Carbon black
  • Diesel exhaust
  • Fly ash
  • Inflammation
  • Metals
  • Particulate matter
  • Pulmonary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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