Impact of sub-acute acrolein inhalation on the molecular regulation of mitochondrial metabolism in rat lung

Toxicol Lett. 2023 Feb 16;378:19-30. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2023.02.003. Online ahead of print.


Nowadays, mitochondria are recognized as key players in the pathogenesis of a variety of smoking-associated lung diseases. Acrolein, a component of cigarette smoke, is a known driver of biological mechanisms underlying smoking-induced respiratory toxicity. The impact of sub-acute acrolein inhalation in vivo on key processes controlling mitochondrial homeostasis in cells of the airways however is unknown. In this study, we investigated the activity/abundance of a myriad of molecules critically involved in mitochondrial metabolic pathways and mitochondrial quality control processes (mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy) in the lungs of Sprague-Dawley rats that were sub-acutely exposed to filtered air or 3 ppm acrolein by whole-body inhalation (5 h/day, 5 days/week for 4 weeks). Acrolein exposure induced a general inflammatory response in the lung as gene expression analysis revealed an increased expression of Icam1 and Cinc1 (p < 0.1; p < 0.05). Acrolein significantly decreased enzyme activity of hydroxyacyl-Coenzyme A dehydrogenase (p < 0.01), and decreased Pdk4 transcript levels (p < 0.05), suggestive of acrolein-induced changes in metabolic processes. Investigation of constituents of the mitochondrial biogenesis pathways and mitophagy machinery revealed no pronounced alterations. In conclusion, sub-acute inhalation of acrolein did not affect the regulation of mitochondrial metabolism and quality control, which is in contrast to more profound changes after acute exposure in other studies.

Keywords: Acrolein; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Inflammation; Mitochondrial metabolism; Respiratory toxicity.