Trichloroethene (TCE) exposure is associated with the development of various autoimmune diseases (ADs), including autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), potentially through the generation of excessive reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS; oxidative stress). However, the mechanisms by which oxidative stress contributes to these TCE-mediated ADs are not fully understood, and are the focus of current investigation. Female MRL+/+ mice were treated with TCE along with or without antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) for 6 weeks (TCE, 10 mmol/kg, i. p., every 4th day; NAC, 250 mg/kg/day via drinking water). TCE-treated mice had elevated antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE)-specific circulating immune complexes, suggesting the association of TCE-induced oxidative stress with autoimmune response. In addition, TCE exposure led to prominent lobular inflammation with sinusoid dilation, increased sinusoidal cellularity and increased staining for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), confirming inflammatory and hepatocellular cell proliferation. Importantly, TCE exposure resulted in the activation of hepatic inflammasome (NLRP3 and caspase-1) and up-regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1β, and these changes were attenuated by NAC supplementation. TCE treatment also led to dysregulation of hepatic immune response as evident from markedly increased hepatic lymphocyte infiltration (especially B cells) and imbalance between Tregs (decreased) and Th17 cells (increased). Interestingly, TCE-mediated dysregulation of various hepatic and splenic immune cells was also effectively attenuated by NAC. Taken together, our findings provide evidence for TCE-mediated inflammasome activation, infiltration of various immune cells, and skewed balance of Treg and Th17 cells in the liver. The attenuation of TCE-mediated hepatic inflammasome activation and immune responses by NAC further supports a critical role of oxidative stress in TCE-mediated inflammation and autoimmunity. These novel findings could help in designing therapeutic strategies for such ADs.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; Inflammasome; Inflammation; Oxidative stress; TCE.
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