Background: The upper respiratory tract functions to protect lower respiratory structures from chemical and biological agents in inspired air. Cellular oxidative stress leading to acute and chronic inflammation contributes to the resultant pathology in many of these exposures and is typical of allergic disease, chronic sinusitis, pollutant exposure, and bacterial and viral infections. Little is known about the effective means by which topical treatment of the nose can strengthen its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defenses. The present study was undertaken to determine if naturally-occurring plant oils with reported antioxidant activity can provide mechanisms through which upper respiratory protection might occur.
Methods: Controlled exposure of the upper respiratory system to ozone and nasal biopsy were carried out in healthy human subjects to assess mitigation of the ozone-induced inflammatory response and to assess gene expression in the nasal mucosa induced by a mixture of five naturally-occurring antioxidant oils--aloe, coconut, orange, peppermint and vitamin E. Cells of the BEAS-2B and NCI-H23 epithelial cell lines were used to investigate the source and potential intracellular mechanisms of action responsible for oil-induced anti-inflammatory activity.
Results: Aerosolized pretreatment with the mixed oil preparation significantly attenuated ozone-induced nasal inflammation. Although most oil components may reduce oxidant stress by undergoing reduction, orange oil was demonstrated to have the ability to induce long-lasting gene expression of several antioxidant enzymes linked to Nrf2, including HO-1, NQO1, GCLm and GCLc, and to mitigate the pro-inflammatory signaling of endotoxin in cell culture systems. Nrf2 activation was demonstrated. Treatment with the aerosolized oil preparation increased baseline levels of nasal mucosal HO-1 expression in 9 of 12 subjects.
Conclusions: These data indicate that selected oil-based antioxidant preparations can effectively reduce inflammation associated with oxidant stress-related challenge to the nasal mucosa. The potential for some oils to activate intracellular antioxidant pathways may provide a powerful mechanism through which effective and persistent cytoprotection against airborne environmental exposures can be provided in the upper respiratory mucosa.