Effects of air pollution particles (ultrafine and fine particulate matter) on mitochondrial function and oxidative stress - Implications for cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2020 Dec 15:696:108662. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2020.108662. Epub 2020 Nov 5.


Environmental pollution is a major cause of global mortality and burden of disease. All chemical pollution forms together may be responsible for up to 12 million annual excess deaths as estimated by the Lancet Commission on pollution and health as well as the World Health Organization. Ambient air pollution by particulate matter (PM) and ozone was found to be associated with an all-cause mortality rate of up to 9 million in the year 2015, with the majority being of cerebro- and cardiovascular nature (e.g. stroke and ischemic heart disease). Recent evidence suggests that exposure to airborne particles and gases contributes to and accelerates neurodegenerative diseases. Especially, airborne toxic particles contribute to these adverse health effects. Whereas it is well established that air pollution in the form of PM may lead to dysregulation of neurohormonal stress pathways and may trigger inflammation as well as oxidative stress, leading to secondary damage of cardiovascular structures, the mechanistic impact of PM-induced mitochondrial damage and dysfunction is not well established. With the present review we will discuss similarities between mitochondrial damage and dysfunction observed in the development and progression of cardiovascular disease and neurodegeneration as well as those adverse mitochondrial pathomechanisms induced by airborne PM.

Keywords: Ambient air pollution; Cardiovascular disease; Environmental risk factors; Mitochondrial damage and dysfunction; Neurodegeneration; Particulate matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / epidemiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter