Context: Epidemiologic associations between acutely increased cardiorespiratory morbidity and mortality and particulate air pollution are well established, but the effects of acute pollution exposure on human gene expression changes are not well understood.
Objective: In order to identify potential mechanisms underlying epidemiologic associations between air pollution and morbidity, we explored changes in gene expression in humans following inhalation of fresh diesel exhaust (DE), a model for particulate air pollution.
Materials and methods: Fourteen ethnically homogeneous (white males), young, healthy subjects underwent 60-min inhalation exposures on 2 separate days with clean filtered air (CA) or freshly generated and diluted DE at a concentration of 300 μg/m(3) PM(2.5). Prior to and 24 h following each session, whole blood was sampled and fractionated for peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) isolation, RNA extraction, and generation of cDNA, followed by hybridization with Agilent Whole Human Genome (4X44K) arrays.
Results: Oxidative stress and the ubiquitin proteasome pathway, as well as the coagulation system, were among hypothesized pathways identified by analysis of differentially expressed genes. Nine genes from these pathways were validated using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to compare fold change in expression between DE exposed and CA days. Quantitative gene fold changes generated by real-time PCR were directionally consistent with the fold changes from the microarray analysis.
Discussion and conclusion: Changes in gene expression connected with key oxidative stress, protein degradation, and coagulation pathways are likely to underlie observed physiologic and clinical outcomes and suggest specific avenues and sensitive time points for further physiologic exploration.