Background: Childhood exposure to air pollution contributes to cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Immune and oxidative stress disturbances might mediate the effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular system, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood in adolescents. Therefore, we aimed to identify immune biomarkers linking air pollution exposure and blood pressure levels in adolescents.
Methods: We randomly recruited 100 adolescents (mean age, 16 years) from Fresno, California. Using central-site data, spatial-temporal modeling, and distance weighting exposures to the participant's home, we estimated average pollutant levels [particulate matter (PM), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)]. We collected blood samples and vital signs on health visits. Using proteomic platforms, we quantitated markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, coagulation, and endothelial function. Immune cellular characterization was performed via mass cytometry (CyTOF). We investigated associations between pollutant levels, cytokines, immune cell types, and blood pressure (BP) using partial least squares (PLS) and linear regression, while adjusting for important confounders.
Results: Using PLS, biomarkers explaining most of the variance in air pollution exposure included markers of oxidative stress (GDF-15 and myeloperoxidase), acute inflammation (C-reactive protein), hemostasis (ADAMTS, D-dimer) and immune cell types such as monocytes. Most of these biomarkers were independently associated with the air pollution levels in fully adjusted regression models. In CyTOF analyses, monocytes were enriched in participants with the highest versus the lowest PM2.5 exposure. In both PLS and linear regression, diastolic BP was independently associated with PM2.5, NO, NO2, CO and PAH456 pollution levels (P ≤ 0.009). Moreover, monocyte levels were independently related to both air pollution and diastolic BP levels (P ≤ 0.010). In in vitro cell assays, plasma of participants with high PM2.5 exposure induced endothelial dysfunction as evaluated by eNOS and ICAM-1 expression and tube formation.
Conclusions: For the first time in adolescents, we found that ambient air pollution levels were associated with oxidative stress, acute inflammation, altered hemostasis, endothelial dysfunction, monocyte enrichment and diastolic blood pressure. Our findings provide new insights on pollution-related immunological and cardiovascular disturbances and advocate preventative measures of air pollution exposure.
Keywords: Adolescent; Air pollution; Blood pressure; Cardiovascular disease; Immune; Inflammation.