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, 56 (2), 405-13

Pulmonary Chemokine and Mutagenic Responses in Rats After Subchronic Inhalation of Amorphous and Crystalline Silica


Pulmonary Chemokine and Mutagenic Responses in Rats After Subchronic Inhalation of Amorphous and Crystalline Silica

C J Johnston et al. Toxicol Sci.


Chronic inhalation of crystalline silica can produce lung tumors in rats whereas this has not been shown for amorphous silica. At present the mechanisms underlying this rat lung tumor response are unknown, although a significant role for chronic inflammation and cell proliferation has been postulated. To examine the processes that may contribute to the development of rat lung tumors after silica exposure, we characterized the effects of subchronic inhalation of amorphous and crystalline silica in rats. Rats were exposed for 6 h/day, on 5 days/week, for up to 13 weeks to 3 mg/m(3) crystalline or 50 mg/m(3) amorphous silica. The effects on the lung were characterized after 6.5 and 13 weeks of exposure as well as after 3 and 8 months of recovery. Exposure concentrations were selected to induce high pulmonary inflammatory-cell responses by both compounds. Endpoints characterized after silica exposure included mutation in the HPRT gene of isolated alveolar cells in an ex vivo assay, changes in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid markers of cellular and biochemical lung injury and inflammation, expression of mRNA for the chemokine MIP-2, and detection of oxidative DNA damage. Lung burdens of silica were also determined. After 13 weeks of exposure, lavage neutrophils were increased from 0.26% (controls) to 47 and 55% of total lavaged cells for crystalline and amorphous silica, with significantly greater lavage neutrophil numbers after amorphous silica (9.3 x 10(7) PMNs) compared to crystalline silica (6.5 x 10(7) PMNs). Lung burdens were 819 and 882 microg for crystalline and amorphous silica, respectively. BAL fluid levels of LDH as an indicator of cytotoxicity were twice as high for amorphous silica compared to those of crystalline silica, at the end of exposure. All parameters remained increased for crystalline silica and decreased rapidly for amorphous silica in the 8-month recovery period. Increased MIP-2 expression was observed at the end of the exposure period for both amorphous and crystalline silica. After 8 months of recovery, those markers remained elevated in crystalline silica-exposed rats, whereas amorphous silica-exposed rats were not significantly different from controls. A significant increase in HPRT mutation frequency in alveolar epithelial cells was detected immediately after 13 weeks of exposure to crystalline, but not to amorphous silica. A significant increase in TUNEL staining was detected in macrophages and terminal bronchiolar epithelial cells of amorphous silica-exposed rats at the end of the exposure period; however, crystalline silica produced far less staining. The observation that genotoxic effects in alveolar epithelial cells occurred only after crystalline but not amorphous silica exposure, despite a high degree of inflammatory-cell response after subchronic exposure to both types of silica, suggests that in addition to an inflammatory response, particle biopersistence, solubility, and direct or indirect epithelial cell cytotoxicity may be key factors for the induction of either mutagenic events or target cell death.

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