Background: Epidemiologic and experimental studies suggest that air pollution such as diesel exhaust particles (DEPs), one of the important air pollutants, may play a role in the increasing prevalence of allergic airway diseases.
Objective: We studied the effect of suspended particulate matter (SPM) and its main component, DEPs, on the production of IL-8 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) by human airway epithelial cells in vitro.
Methods: SPM obtained from high-volume air samplers and DEPs were added to cultured human nasal polyp-derived upper airway, normal bronchial, and transformed bronchial epithelial cells. Production of GM-CSF and IL-8 by airway epithelial cells was evaluated.
Results: Nontoxic doses of DEPs showed a significant stimulatory effect on IL-8 and GM-CSF production by these three kinds of epithelial cells in a dose- and time-dependent fashion. SPM had a stimulatory effect on GM-CSF, but not IL-8, production. These effects were abrogated by treatment with a protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide, suggesting that the process required a de novo protein synthesis. On the double-chamber plates, airway epithelial cells responded to DEPs only when they were stimulated from the apical sides, which can be a model for in vivo environments. Neither charcoal nor graphite showed such stimulatory effects, indicating that the activity of DEPs did not derive from their particulate nature. Benzo(a)pyrene, one of the main aromatic hydrocarbons contained in DEPs, showed a stimulatory effect on the release of the cytokines, and this organic substance might have a causative effect on of the potency of DEPs.
Conclusion: We conclude that SPM and DEPs, its main component, might be important air pollutants in the activation of airway epithelial cells for the release of cytokines relevant to allergic airway inflammation.