Health and cellular impacts of air pollutants: from cytoprotection to cytotoxicity

Biochem Res Int. 2012;2012:493894. doi: 10.1155/2012/493894. Epub 2012 Apr 9.


Air pollution as one of the ravages of our modern societies is primarily linked to urban centers, industrial activities, or road traffic. These atmospheric pollutants have been incriminated in deleterious health effects by numerous epidemiological and in vitro studies. Environmental air pollutants are a heterogeneous mixture of particles suspended into a liquid and gaseous phase which trigger the disruption of redox homeostasis-known under the term of cellular oxidative stress-in relation with the establishment of inflammation and cell death via necrosis, apoptosis, or autophagy. Activation or repression of the apoptotic process as an adaptative response to xenobiotics might lead to either acute or chronic toxicity. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the central role of oxidative stress induced by air pollutants and to focus on the subsequent cellular impacts ranging from cytoprotection to cytotoxicity by decreasing or stimulating apoptosis, respectively.