Janus-faced Acrolein prevents allergy but accelerates tumor growth by promoting immunoregulatory Foxp3+ cells: Mouse model for passive respiratory exposure

Sci Rep. 2017 Mar 23;7:45067. doi: 10.1038/srep45067.


Acrolein, a highly reactive unsaturated aldehyde, is generated in large amounts during smoking and is best known for its genotoxic capacity. Here, we aimed to assess whether acrolein at concentrations relevant for smokers may also exert immunomodulatory effects that could be relevant in allergy or cancer. In a BALB/c allergy model repeated nasal exposure to acrolein abrogated allergen-specific antibody and cytokine formation, and led to a relative accumulation of regulatory T cells in the lungs. Only the acrolein-treated mice were protected from bronchial hyperreactivity as well as from anaphylactic reactions upon challenge with the specific allergen. Moreover, grafted D2F2 tumor cells grew faster and intratumoral Foxp3+ cell accumulation was observed in these mice compared to sham-treated controls. Results from reporter cell lines suggested that acrolein acts via the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor which could be inhibited by resveratrol and 3'-methoxy-4'-nitroflavone Acrolein- stimulation of human PBMCs increased Foxp3+ expression by T cells which could be antagonized by resveratrol. Our mouse and human data thus revealed that acrolein exerts systemic immunosuppression by promoting Foxp3+ regulatory cells. This provides a novel explanation why smokers have a lower allergy, but higher cancer risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrolein / pharmacology*
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / metabolism
  • Resveratrol
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism*


  • Allergens
  • Cytokines
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Immunologic Factors
  • NF-kappa B
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Stilbenes
  • Acrolein
  • Resveratrol