Context: Coal-fired power plant emissions can contribute a significant portion of the ambient air pollution in many parts of the world.
Objective: We hypothesized that exposure to simulated downwind coal combustion emissions (SDCCE) may exacerbate pre-existing allergic airway responses.
Methods: Mice were sensitized and challenged with ovalbumin (OVA). Parallel groups were sham-sensitized with saline. Mice were exposed 6 h/day for 3 days to air (control, C) or SDCCE containing particulate matter (PM) at low (L; 100 μg/m³), medium (M; 300 μg/m³), or high (H; 1000 μg/m³) concentrations, or to the H level with PM removed by filtration (high-filtered, HF). Immediately after SDCCE exposure, mice received another OVA challenge (pre-OVA protocol). In a second (post-OVA) protocol, mice were similarly sensitized but only challenged to OVA before air/SDCCE. Measurement of airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and blood collection were performed ~24 h after the last exposure.
Results: SDCCE significantly increased BAL macrophages and eosinophils in OVA-sensitized mice from the post-OVA protocol. However, there was no effect of SDCCE on BAL macrophages or eosinophils in OVA-sensitized mice from the pre-OVA protocol. BAL neutrophils were elevated following SDCCE in both protocols in nonsensitized mice. These changes were not altered by filtering out the PM. In the post-OVA protocol, SDCCE decreased OVA-specific IgG₁ in OVA-sensitized mice but increased levels of total IgE, OVA-specific IgE and OVA-specific IgG₁ and IgG(2a) in non-sensitized animals. In the pre-OVA protocol, SDCCE increased OVA-specific IgE in both sensitized and non-sensitized animals. Additionally, BAL IL-4, IL-13, and IFN-γ levels were elevated in sensitized mice.
Conclusion: These results suggest that acute exposure to either the particulate or gaseous phase of SDCCE can exacerbate various features of allergic airway responses depending on the timing of exposure in relation to allergen challenge.