The priming effect of diesel exhaust on native pollen exposure at the air-liquid interface

Environ Res. 2022 Aug:211:112968. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.112968. Epub 2022 Mar 1.


Pollen related allergic diseases have been increasing for decades. The reasons for this increase are unknown, but environmental pollution like diesel exhaust seem to play a role. While previous studies explored the effects of pollen extracts, we studied here for the first time priming effects of diesel exhaust on native pollen exposure using a novel experimental setup.

Methods: Human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells were exposed to native birch pollen (real life intact pollen, not pollen extracts) at the air-liquid interface (pollen-ALI). BEAS-2B cells were also pre-exposed in a diesel-ALI to diesel CAST for 2 h (a model for diesel exhaust) and then to pollen in the pollen-ALI 24 h later. Effects were analysed by genome wide transcriptome analysis after 2 h 25 min, 6 h 50 min and 24 h. Selected genes were confirmed by qRT-PCR.

Results: Bronchial epithelial cells exposed to native pollen showed the highest transcriptomic changes after about 24 h. About 3157 genes were significantly up- or down-regulated for all time points combined. After pre-exposure to diesel exhaust the maximum reaction to pollen had shifted to about 2.5 h after exposure, plus the reaction to pollen was desensitised as only 560 genes were differentially regulated. Only 97 genes were affected synergistically. Of these, enrichment analysis showed that genes involved in immune and inflammatory response were involved.

Conclusion: Diesel exhaust seems to prime cells to react more rapidly to native pollen exposure, especially inflammation related genes, a factor known to facilitate the development of allergic sensitization. The marker genes here detected could guide studies in humans when investigating whether modern and outdoor diesel exhaust exposure is still detrimental for the development of allergic disease.

Keywords: Air-liquid interface; BEAS-2B; Fresh diesel model exhaust; Native pollen; Pollen chamber.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Epithelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Pollen*
  • Vehicle Emissions* / toxicity


  • Plant Extracts
  • Vehicle Emissions