Effects of first-generation in utero exposure to diesel engine exhaust on second-generation placental function, fatty acid profiles and foetal metabolism in rabbits: preliminary results

Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 4;9(1):9710. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-46130-x.


Atmospheric pollution has major health effects on directly exposed subjects but intergenerational consequences are poorly characterized. We previously reported that diesel engine exhaust (DE) could lead to structural changes in the placenta of in utero exposed rabbits (first generation, F1). The effects of maternal exposure to DE were further studied on second-generation (F2) rabbits. Pregnant F0 females were exposed to filtered, diluted DE (1 mg/m3, median particle diameter: 69 nm) or clean filtered air (controls) for 2 h/day, 5 days/week by nose-only exposure during days 3-27 post-conception (dpc). Adult female offspring (F1) were mated to control males: F1 tissues and F2 foeto-placental units were collected at 28 dpc and placental structure and gene expression (microarray) analysed. Fatty acid profiles were determined in foetal and maternal plasma, maternal liver and placenta. In F1, compared to controls, hepatic neutral lipid contents were increased in exposed animals without change in the blood biochemistry. In F2, the placental lipid contents were higher, with higher monounsaturated fatty acids and reduced pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid (AA), without placental structural changes. Conversely, the proportion of anti-inflammatory n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in F2 plasma was increased while that of AA was decreased. Gene set enrichment analyses (GSEA) of F2 placenta transcriptomic data identified that the proteasome complex and ubiquitin pathways genes were over-represented and ion channel function and inflammation pathways genes were under-represented in exposed animals. These preliminary results demonstrate that diesel engine exhaust exposure and in utero indirect exposure should be considered as a programming factor within the context of the DOHaD (Developmental Origins of Health and Disease) with a probable intergenerational transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Placenta / drug effects
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / pathology*
  • Rabbits
  • Transcriptome / drug effects
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Fatty Acids
  • Vehicle Emissions