AMPK activation attenuates inflammatory response to reduce ambient PM 2.5-induced metabolic disorders in healthy and diabetic mice

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2019 Sep 15;179:290-300. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2019.04.038. Epub 2019 May 6.


Epidemiological and experimental studies have indicated that ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure is associated with the occurrence and development of metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). However, the mechanism is not clear yet, and there are few studies to explore the possible prevention measure. In this study, C57BL/6 and db/db mice were exposed to concentrated PM2.5 or filtered air using Shanghai Meteorological and Environmental Animal Exposure System (Shanghai-METAS) for 12 weeks. From week 11, some of the mice were assigned to receive a subcutaneous injection of AMPK activator (AICAR). Lipid metabolism, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and energy homeostasis were measured. Meanwhile, the respiratory, systemic and visceral fat inflammatory response was detected. The results showed that PM2.5 exposure induced the impairments of glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders and disturbances of energy metabolism in both C57BL/6 and db/db mice. These impairments might be consistent with the increased respiratory, circulating and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) inflammatory response, which was characterized by the release of IL-6 and TNF-α in lung, serum and VAT. More importantly, AICAR administration led to the significant enhancement of energy metabolism, elevation of AMPK as well as the decreased IL-6 and TNF-α in VAT of PM2.5-exposed mice, which suggesting that AMPK activation might attenuate the inflammatory responses in VAT via the inhibition of MAPKs and NFκB. The study indicated that exposure to ambient PM2.5 under the concentration which is often seen in some developing countries could induce the occurrence of metabolic disorders in normal healthy mice and exacerbate metabolic disorders in diabetic mice. The adverse impacts of PM2.5 on insulin sensitivity, energy homeostasis, lipid metabolism and inflammatory response were associated with AMPK inhibition. AMPK activation might inhibit PM2.5-induced metabolic disorders via inhibition of inflammatory cytokines release. These findings suggested that AMPK activation is a potential therapy to prevent some of the metabolic disorders attributable to air pollution exposure.

Keywords: AMP-Activated protein kinase; Air pollution; Inflammation; Metabolic disorders.

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • China
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Obesity / chemically induced*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Particulate Matter
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases