Sequestration of mitochondrial iron by silica particle initiates a biological effect

Andrew J. Ghio, Haiyan Tong, Joleen M. Soukup, Lisa A. Dailey, Wan Yun Cheng, James M. Samet, Matthew J. Kesic, Philip A. Bromberg, Jennifer L. Turi, Daya Upadhyay, G. R. Scott Budinger, Gökhan M. Mutlu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Inhalation of particulate matter has presented a challenge to human health for thousands of years. The underlying mechanism for biological effect following particle exposure is incompletely understood. We tested the postulate that particle sequestration of cell and mitochondrial iron is a pivotal event mediating oxidant generation and biological effect. In vitro exposure of human bronchial epithelial cells to silica reduced intracellular iron, which resulted in increases in both the importer divalent metal transporter 1 expression and metal uptake. Diminished mitochondrial 57Fe concentrations following silica exposure confirmed particle sequestration of cell iron. Preincubation of cells with excess ferric ammonium citrate increased cell, nuclear, and mitochondrial metal concentrations and prevented significant iron loss from mitochondria following silica exposure. Cell and mitochondrial oxidant generation increased after silica incubation, but pretreatment with iron diminished this generation of reactive oxygen species. Silica exposure activated MAP kinases (ERK and p38) and altered the expression of transcription factors (nF-κB and NF-E2-related factor 2), proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin-8 and-6), and apoptotic proteins. All of these changes in indexes of biological effect were either diminished or inhibited by cell pretreatment with iron. Finally, percentage of neutrophils and total protein concentrations in an animal model instilled with silica were decreased by concurrent exposure to iron. We conclude that an initiating event in the response to particulate matter is a sequestration of cell and mitochondrial iron by endocytosed particle. The resultant oxidative stress and biological response after particle exposure are either diminished or inhibited by increasing the cell iron concentration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L712-L724
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2013


  • Inflammation
  • Oxidants
  • Particulate matter
  • Quartz

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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