Part 1. Biologic responses in rats and mice to subchronic inhalation of diesel exhaust from U.S. 2007-compliant engines: report on 1-, 3-, and 12-month exposures in the ACES bioassay

Res Rep Health Eff Inst. 2012 Sep:(166):9-120.


The Health Effects Institute and its partners conceived and funded a program to characterize the emissions from heavy-duty diesel engines compliant with the 2007 and 2010 on-road emissions standards in the United States and to evaluate indicators of lung toxicity in rats and mice exposed repeatedly to diesel exhaust (DE*) from 2007-compliant engines. The preliminary hypothesis of this Advanced Collaborative Emissions Study (ACES) was that 2007-compliant on-road diesel emissions ". . . will not cause an increase in tumor formation or substantial toxic effects in rats and mice at the highest concentration of exhaust that can be used . . . although some biological effects may occur." This hypothesis is being tested at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) by exposing rats by chronic inhalation as a carcinogenicity bioassay, measuring indicators of pulmonary toxicity in rats after 1, 3, 12, and 24-30 months of exposure (final time point depends on the survival of animals), and measuring similar indicators of pulmonary toxicity in mice after 1 and 3 months of exposure. This report provides results of exposures through 3 months in rats and mice. Emissions from a 2007-compliant, 500-horsepower-class engine and aftertreatment system operated on a variable-duty cycle were used to generate the animal inhalation test atmospheres. Four treatment groups were exposed to one of three concentrations (dilutions) of exhaust combined with crankcase emissions, or to clean air as a negative control. Dilutions of exhaust were set to yield average integrated concentrations of 4.2, 0.8, and 0.1 ppm nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Exposure atmospheres were analyzed by daily measurements of key components and periodic detailed physical-chemical characterizations. Exposures were conducted 16 hr/dy (overnight), 5 dy/wk. Rats were evaluated for hematology, serum chemistry, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), lung cell proliferation, and histopathology after 1 month of exposure, and the same indicators plus pulmonary function after 3 months. Mice were evaluated for BAL, lung cell proliferation, and respiratory tract histopathology after 1 month of exposure, and the same indicators plus hematology and serum chemistry after 3 months. Samples from both species were collected for ancillary studies performed by investigators who were not at LRRI and were funded separately. Exposures were accomplished as planned, with average integrated exposure concentrations within 20% of the target dilutions. The major components were the gaseous inorganic compounds, nitrogen monoxide (NO), NO2, and carbon monoxide (CO). Minor components included low concentrations of diesel particulate matter (DPM) and volatile and semivolatile organic compounds (VOCs and SVOCs). There were no exposure-related differences in mortality or clinically evident morbidity. Among the more than 100 biologic response variables evaluated, the majority showed no significant difference from control as a result of exposure to DE. There was evidence of early lung changes in the rats, accompanied by a number of statistically significant increases in inflammatory and oxidative stress indicators, and some evidence of subtle changes in pulmonary function. In general, statistically significant effects were observed only at the highest exposure level. The mice did not have the same responses as the rats, but did have small but statistically significant increases in lavage neutrophils and the cytokine IL-6 at 1 month (but not at 3 months). These findings suggest that the rats were more sensitive than mice to the subchronic exposures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Immunoglobulins / drug effects
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Nitrogen Dioxide