Pro-inflammatory response and oxidative stress induced by specific components in ambient particulate matter in human bronchial epithelial cells

Lawei Yang, Gang Liu*, Ziying Lin, Yahong Wang, Huijuan He, Tie Liu, David W. Kamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown that biological effect of particulate matter (PM2.5) is involved in including chemical composition and mass concentration, but the precise components and biological action on human bronchial epithelial cell line (BEAS-2B) are still unclear. The aim of this study was to evaluate the in vitro toxicity of PM2.5 collected at six urban sites in China, and to investigate how particle composition affects cytotoxicity. We used human bronchial epithelial (BEAS-2B) cell lines as model in vitro to expose to PM2.5 from different source, and then reactive oxygen species (ROS), superoxide dismutase activity and total antioxidant capacity were analyzed. Furthermore, we estimated the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and transition metal and the endotoxin contents. The mRNA expression of IL-1β and IL-10 following exposure to PM2.5 was measured by QRT-PCR. We also observed the mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) using JC-1 staining, and apoptosis of BEAS-2B using flow cytometry. In addition, double-stranded DNA breaks (DSBs) were assessed using γ-H2AX immunofluorescence. Our results show that high concentrations of PAHs and elemental Ni were strongly associated with high apoptosis rates and high expression of IL-1β, in addition, Fe element was associated with the ROS level, furthermore, Fe and Cr element were associated with DNA damage in BEAS-2B cells. The cytotoxic effects of urban PM2.5 derived from six different cities in China appear dependent on the specific components in each. Our results indicate that air quality standards based on PM2.5 components may be more relevant than concentration–response functions (CRF).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)923-936
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • apoptosis
  • cytotoxicity
  • inflammatory cytokines
  • particulate matter 2.5
  • reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Toxicology


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