Petroleum hydrocarbon toxicity in vitro: effect of n-alkanes, benzene and toluene on pulmonary alveolar macrophages and lysosomal enzymes of the lung

Arch Toxicol. 1987 Apr;59(6):402-7. doi: 10.1007/BF00316205.


The in vitro effects of straight chain alkanes (nC6-nC10), benzene and toluene on pulmonary alveolar macrophages (PAM) of rats and rabbits was studied. The concentrations used ranged from 0.02 to 1.0 mM. All hydrocarbons used in the study were cytotoxic to isolated cultured PAM cells in a dose-dependent manner. The LC50 for these hydrocarbons towards rat PAM cells was estimated to be 1.0 mM for nC8, 2 mM for nC7, 5 mM for nC9 and 10 mM for nC6, nC10, benzene and toluene. Rabbit PAM cells were more sensitive to the hydrocarbons, resulting in and LC50 half that for rat PAM cells. Hydrocarbons also caused extracellular release of the lysosomal enzymes cathepsin D (EC and cathepsin B (EC in a manner corresponding with cell damage. There was more cathepsin D activity released from cells than cathepsin B. In addition, hydrocarbons also caused the release of cathepsin B and D from isolated lysosomes, and there was 10-15% more enzyme activity released in the culture medium of lysosomes exposed to concentrations of 0.5 and 1.0 mM compared to PAM cell cultures of either rats or rabbits. Hydrocarbons also caused loss of cell respiration and stimulated a dose-dependent and a time-dependent increase in lipid peroxidation. The two alkanes nC7 and nC8 caused the greatest increase in lipid peroxidation and the greatest loss of cell respiration. The results indicate that there is a relationship between chain length of alkanes and their cytotoxicity to PAM cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkanes / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Benzene / toxicity
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Lipid Peroxides / metabolism
  • Lysosomes / enzymology*
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Petroleum / toxicity*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / cytology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / enzymology*
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Toluene / toxicity*


  • Alkanes
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Lipid Peroxides
  • Petroleum
  • Toluene
  • Benzene