Background: Shortened leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is a marker of cardiovascular risk that has been recently associated with long-term exposure to ambient particulate matter (PM). However, LTL is increased during acute inflammation and allows for rapid proliferation of inflammatory cells. Whether short-term exposure to proinflammatory exposures such as PM increases LTL has never been evaluated. Objectives: We investigated the effects of acute exposure to metal-rich PM on blood LTL, as well as molecular mechanisms contributing to LTL regulation in a group of steel workers with high PM exposure. Methods: We measured LTL, as well as mRNA expression and promoter DNA methylation of the telomerase catalytic enzyme gene [human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT)] in blood samples obtained from 63 steel workers on the first day of a workweek (baseline) and after 3 days of work (postexposure). Results: LTL was significantly increased in postexposure (mean ± SD, 1.43 ± 0.51) compared with baseline samples (1.23 ± 0.28, p-value < 0.001). Postexposure LTL was positively associated with PM10 (β = 0.30, p-value = 0.002 for 90th vs. 10th percentile exposure) and PM1 (β = 0.29, p-value = 0.042) exposure levels in regression models adjusting for multiple covariates. hTERT expression was lower in postexposure samples (1.31 ± 0.75) than at baseline (1.68 ± 0.86, p-value < 0.001), but the decrease in hTERT expression did not show a dose-response relationship with PM. We found no exposure-related differences in the methylation of any of the CpG sites investigated in the hTERT promoter. Conclusions: Short-term exposure to PM caused a rapid increase in blood LTL. The LTL increase did not appear to be mediated by PM-related changes in hTERT expression and methylation.
- Particulate matter
- Telomere length
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis