Oxidative stress and alterations in the expression of genes related to inflammation, DNA damage, and metal exposure in lung cells exposed to a hydroethanolic coal dust extract

Mol Biol Rep. 2022 Jun;49(6):4861-4871. doi: 10.1007/s11033-022-07341-0. Epub 2022 Mar 25.


Background: Open cast mining is well known as a concerning source of environmental and public health problems. This work aimed to obtain a hydroethanolic coal dust extract (≤ 38 µm) and to characterize its composition with particular regard to content of organic compounds by GC/MS, as well as describe its toxicity in vitro on Calu-1 after exposure to several concentrations (0-500 μg/mL).

Materials and results: Cytotoxicity was measured with MTT assay and DCFH-DA probe was employed to estimate the amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in Calu-1 cells. RT-PCR was employed to quantify relative expression of genes associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, as well as metals, and lipid metabolism. Seventeen organic compounds were identified in the extract, highlighting undecane, dodecane, pentadecane and benzo[a]anthracene, 6,12-dimethyl-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-. Cytotoxicity test showed a decrease trend in the cell viability after 24 h hours from the concentration of 62.5 µg/mL. Further, the extract raised intracellular ROS when compared with control. Expression levels of CYP1A1, IL-8, IL-6, MT1X, and NQO1 were up-regulated when cells were exposed to 125 µg/mL of coal dust, whereas PPAR-α was down-regulated, likely involving aryl hydrocarbon receptor regulation.

Conclusions: In short, this study shows that despite hydroethanolic coal dust extract is not cytotoxic to Calu-1 cells, it produces an elevation of intracellular ROS and alters the expression in marker genes of oxidative stress, inflammation, metal transport, xenobiotic and lipid metabolism. These findings suggest that chemicals present in coal dust are biologically active and may interfere key biochemical process in the living organisms.

Keywords: Coal mining; Extract; Gene expression; ROS; Viability.

MeSH terms

  • Coal Mining*
  • Coal* / analysis
  • Coal* / toxicity
  • DNA Damage
  • Dust / analysis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Lung
  • Metals / toxicity
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


  • Coal
  • Dust
  • Metals
  • Reactive Oxygen Species