World Trade Center particulate matter (WTC-PM)-exposed firefighters with metabolic syndrome (MetSyn) have a higher risk of WTC lung injury (WTC-LI). Since macrophages are crucial innate pulmonary mediators, we investigated WTC-PM/lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) co-exposure in macrophages. LPA, a low-density lipoprotein metabolite, is a ligand of the advanced glycation end-products receptor (AGER or RAGE). LPA and RAGE are biomarkers of WTC-LI. Human and murine macrophages were exposed to WTC-PM, and/or LPA, and compared to controls. Supernatants were assessed for cytokines/chemokines; cell lysate immunoblots were assessed for signaling intermediates after 24 h. To explore the translatability of our in-vitro findings, we assessed serum cytokines/chemokines and metabolites of symptomatic, never-smoking WTC-exposed firefighters. Agglomerative hierarchical clustering identified phenotypes of WTC-PM-induced inflammation. WTC-PM induced GM-CSF, IL-8, IL-10, and MCP-1 in THP-1-derived macrophages and induced IL-1α, IL-10, TNF-α, and NF-κB in RAW264.7 murine macrophage-like cells. Co-exposure induced synergistic elaboration of IL-10 and MCP-1 in THP-1-derived macrophages. Similarly, co-exposure synergistically induced IL-10 in murine macrophages. Synergistic effects were seen in the context of a downregulation of NF-κB, p-Akt, -STAT3, and -STAT5b. RAGE expression after co-exposure increased in murine macrophages compared to controls. In our integrated analysis, the human cytokine/chemokine biomarker profile of WTC-LI was associated with discriminatory metabolites (fatty acids, sphingolipids, and amino acids). LPA synergistically elaborated WTC-PM's inflammatory effects in vitro and was partly RAGE-mediated. Further research will focus on the intersection of MetSyn/PM exposure.
Keywords: RAGE; lysophosphatidic acid; particulate matter exposure; synergy.