Epidemiologic and occupational studies indicate adverse health effects due to inhalation of particulate air pollutants, but precise biologic mechanisms responsible have yet to be fully established. The tracheobronchial epithelium forms the body's first physiologic barrier to such airborne pollutants, where ciliary movement functions to remove the offending substances caught in the overlying mucus layer. Resident and infiltrating phagocytic cells also function in this removal process. In this paper, we examine the role of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) in the response of airway epithelium to particulates. Some particulates themselves can generate ROS, as can the epithelial cells, in response to appropriate stimulation. In addition, resident macrophages in the airways and the alveolar spaces can release ROS/RNS after phagocytosis of inhaled particles. These macrophages also release large amounts of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), a cytokine that can generate responses within the airway epithelium dependent upon intracellular generation of ROS/RNS. As a result, signal transduction pathways are set in motion that may contribute to inflammation and other pathobiology in the airway. Such effects include increased expression of intercellular adhesion molecule 1, interleukin-6, cytosolic and inducible nitric oxide synthase, manganese superoxide dismutase, cytosolic phospholipase A2, and hypersecretion of mucus. Ultimately, ROS/RNS may play a role in the global response of the airway epithelium to particulate pollutants via activation of kinases and transcription factors common to many response genes. Thus, defense mechanisms involved in responding to offending particulates may result in a complex cascade of events that can contribute to airway pathology.
Air Pollutants • Animals • Epithelium • Humans • Nitrogen • Reactive Oxygen Species • Respiratory System • drug effects • drug effects* • metabolism* • pathology • physiology* • toxicity*