Inhaled asbestos exacerbates atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice via CD4+ T cells

Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Sep;116(9):1218-25. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11172.


Background: Associations between air pollution and morbidity/mortality from cardiovascular disease are recognized in epidemiologic and clinical studies, but the mechanisms by which inhaled fibers or particles mediate the exacerbation of atherosclerosis are unclear.

Objective and methods: To determine whether lung inflammation after inhalation of a well-characterized pathogenic particulate, chrysotile asbestos, is directly linked to exacerbation of atherosclerosis and the mechanisms involved, we exposed apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE(-/-)) mice and ApoE(-/-) mice crossed with CD4(-/-) mice to ambient air, NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) reference sample of chrysotile asbestos, or fine titanium dioxide (TiO(2)), a nonpathogenic control particle, for 3, 9, or 30 days.

Results: ApoE(-/-) mice exposed to inhaled asbestos fibers had approximately 3-fold larger atherosclerotic lesions than did TiO(2)-exposed ApoE(-/-) mice or asbestos-exposed ApoE(-/-)/CD4(-/-) double-knockout (DKO) mice. Lung inflammation and the magnitude of lung fibrosis assessed histologically were similar in asbestos-exposed ApoE(-/-) and DKO mice. Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) levels were increased in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and plasma, and plasma concentrations correlated with lesion size (p < 0.04) in asbestos-exposed ApoE(-/-) mice. At 9 days, activator protein-1 (AP-1) and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), transcription factors linked to inflammation and found in the promoter region of the MCP-1 gene, were increased in aortas of asbestos-exposed ApoE(-/-) but not DKO mice.

Conclusion: Our findings show that the degree of lung inflammation and fibrosis does not correlate directly with cardiovascular effects of inhaled asbestos fibers and support a critical role of CD4(+) T cells in linking fiber-induced pulmonary signaling to consequent activation of AP-1- and NF-kappaB-regulated genes in atherogenesis.

Keywords: AP-1; CD4+ T-cells; MCP-1; NF-κB; atherosclerosis; chrysotile asbestos; fibrosis; inflammation; knockout mice; lung.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Apolipoproteins E / physiology*
  • Asbestos / administration & dosage
  • Asbestos / toxicity*
  • Atherosclerosis / chemically induced*
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics
  • Blotting, Western
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Female
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Asbestos