Cigarette smoke augments asbestos-induced alveolar epithelial cell injury: Role of free radicals

David W. Kamp*, Marc J. Greenberger, Jane S. Sbalchierro, Scott E. Preusen, Sigmund A. Weitzman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Cigarette smoke augments asbestos-induced bronchogenic carcinoma by mechanisms that are not established. Alveolar epithelial cell (AEC) injury due to oxidant-induced DNA damage and depletion of glutathione (GSH) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) may be one important mechanism. We previously showed that amosite asbestos-induces hydroxyl radical production and DNA damage to cultured AEC and that phytic acid, an iron chelator, is protective. We hypothesized that whole cigarette smoke extracts (CSE) augment amosite asbestos-induced AEC injury by generating iron-induced free radicals that damage DNA and reduce cellular GSH and ATP levels. Asbestos or CSE each caused dose-dependent toxicity tO AEC (WI-26 and rat alveolar type I-like cells) as assessed by 51chromium release. The combination of asbestos (5 μg/cm2) and CSE (0.01-0.1%) caused synergistic injury whereas higher doses of each agent primarily had an additive toxic effect. Asbestos (5 μg/cm2) augmented CSE-induced (0.01-1.0%) AEC DNA damage over a 4 h exposure period as assessed by an alkaline unwinding, ethidium bromide fluorometric technique. These effects were synergistic in A549 cells and additive in WI- 26 cells. Asbestos (5 μg/cm2) and CSE (0.5-1.0%) reduced A549 and WI-26 cell GSH levels as assessed spectrophotometrically and ATP levels as assessed by luciferin/luciferase chemiluminescence but a synergistic interaction was not detected. Phytic acid (500 μM) and catalase (100 μg/ml) each attenuated A549 cell DNA damage and depletion of ATP caused by asbestos and CSE. However, neither agent attenuated WI-26 cell DNA damage nor the reductions in GSH levels in WI-26 and A549 cells exposed to asbestos and CSE. We conclude that CSE enhance asbestos-induced DNA damage in cultured alveolar epithelial cells. These data provide additional support that asbestos and cigarette smoke are genotoxic to relevant target cells in the lung and that iron- induced free radicals may in part cause these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-739
Number of pages12
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 1 1998


  • ATP
  • Alveolar epithelial cells
  • Asbestos
  • Cigarette smoke
  • DNA damage
  • Free radical
  • Glutathione
  • Lung injury
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology (medical)

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