Biomonitoring of Ambient Outdoor Air Pollutant Exposure in Humans Using Targeted Serum Albumin Adductomics

Chem Res Toxicol. 2021 Apr 19;34(4):1183-1196. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.1c00055. Epub 2021 Apr 1.


Outdoor air pollution, a spatially and temporally complex mixture, is a human carcinogen. However, ambient measurements may not reflect subject-level exposures, personal monitors do not assess internal dose, and spot assessments of urinary biomarkers may not recapitulate chronic exposures. Nucleophilic sites in serum albumin-particularly the free thiol at Cys34-form adducts with electrophiles. Due to the 4-week lifetime of albumin in circulation, accumulating adducts can serve as intermediate- to long-residence biomarkers of chronic exposure and implicate potential biological effects. Employing nanoflow liquid chromatography-high-resolution mass spectrometry (nLC-HRMS) and parallel reaction monitoring (PRM), we have developed and validated a novel targeted albumin adductomics platform capable of simultaneously monitoring dozens of Cys34 adducts per sample in only 2.5 μL of serum, with on-column limits of detection in the low-femtomolar range. Using this platform, we characterized the magnitude and impact of ambient outdoor air pollution exposures with three repeated measurements over 84 days in n = 26 nonsmoking women (n = 78 total samples) from Qidong, China, an area with a rising burden of lung cancer incidence. In concordance with seasonally rising ambient concentrations of NO2, SO2, and PM10 measured at stationary monitors, we observed elevations in concentrations of Cys34 adducts of benzoquinone (p < 0.05), benzene diol epoxide (BDE; p < 0.05), crotonaldehyde (p < 0.01), and oxidation (p < 0.001). Regression analysis revealed significant elevations in oxidation and BDE adduct concentrations of 300% to nearly 700% per doubling of ambient airborne pollutant levels (p < 0.05). Notably, the ratio of irreversibly oxidized to reduced Cys34 rose more than 3-fold during the 84-day period, revealing a dramatic perturbation of serum redox balance and potentially serving as a portent of increased pollution-related mortality risk. Our targeted albumin adductomics assay represents a novel and flexible approach for sensitive and multiplexed internal dosimetry of environmental exposures, providing a new strategy for personalized biomonitoring and prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Biological Monitoring*
  • Carcinogens / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Serum Albumin / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Carcinogens
  • Serum Albumin