Tussilagone protects acute lung injury from PM2.5 via alleviating Hif-1α/NF-κB-mediated inflammatory response

Environ Toxicol. 2022 May;37(5):1198-1210. doi: 10.1002/tox.23476. Epub 2022 Feb 3.


Environmental pollution, especially particulate matter in the air, is a serious threat to human health. Long-term inhalation of particulate matter with a diameter < 2.5 μm (PM2.5) induced irreversible respiratory and lung injury. However, it is not clear whether temporary exposure to massive PM2.5 would result in epithelial damage and lung injury. More importantly, it is urgent to clarify the mechanisms of PM2.5 cytotoxicity and develop a defensive and therapeutic approach. In this study, we demonstrated that temporary exposure with PM2.5 induced lung epithelial cell apoptosis via promoting cytokines expression and inflammatory factors secretion. The cytotoxicity of PM2.5 could be alleviated by tussilagone (TSL), which is a natural compound isolated from the flower buds of Tussilago farfara. The mechanism study indicated that PM2.5 promoted the protein level of Hif-1α by reducing its degradation mediated by PHD2 binding, which furtherly activated NF-κB signaling and inflammatory response. Meanwhile, TSL administration facilitated the interaction of the Hif-1α/PHD2 complex and restored the Hif-1α protein level increased by PM2.5. When PHD2 was inhibited in epithelial cells, the protective function of TSL on PM2.5 cytotoxicity was attenuated and the expression of cytokines was retrieved. Expectedly, the in vivo study also suggested that temporary PM2.5 exposure led to acute lung injury. TSL treatment could effectively relieve the damage and decrease the expression of inflammatory cytokines by repressing Hif-1α level and NF-κB activation. Our findings provide a new therapeutic strategy for air pollution-related respiratory diseases, and TSL would be a potential preventive medicine for PM2.5 cytotoxicity.

Keywords: Hif-1α; NF-κB; PM2.5; lung injury; tussilagone.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Lung Injury* / chemically induced
  • Acute Lung Injury* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Lung Injury* / chemically induced
  • Lung Injury* / prevention & control
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity
  • Sesquiterpenes*


  • NF-kappa B
  • Particulate Matter
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • tussilagone