Metabolomics of Lung Microdissections Reveals Region- And Sex-Specific Metabolic Effects of Acute Naphthalene Exposure in Mice

Nathanial C. Stevens, Patricia C. Edwards, Lisa M. Tran, Xinxin Ding, Laura S. Van Winkle, Oliver Fiehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Naphthalene is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant produced by combustion of fossil fuels and is a primary constituent of both mainstream and side stream tobacco smoke. Naphthalene elicits region-specific toxicity in airway club cells through cytochrome P450 (P450)-mediated bioactivation, resulting in depletion of glutathione and subsequent cytotoxicity. Although effects of naphthalene in mice have been extensively studied, few experiments have characterized global metabolomic changes in the lung. In individual lung regions, we found metabolomic changes in microdissected mouse lung conducting airways and parenchyma obtained from animals sacrificed at 3 timepoints following naphthalene treatment. Data on 577 unique identified metabolites were acquired by accurate mass spectrometry-based assays focusing on lipidomics and nontargeted metabolomics of hydrophilic compounds. Statistical analyses revealed distinct metabolite profiles between the 2 lung regions. Additionally, the number and magnitude of statistically significant exposure-induced changes in metabolite abundance were different between airways and parenchyma for unsaturated lysophosphatidylcholines, dipeptides, purines, pyrimidines, and amino acids. Importantly, temporal changes were found to be highly distinct for male and female mice with males exhibiting predominant treatment-specific changes only at 2 h postexposure. In females, metabolomic changes persisted until 6 h postnaphthalene treatment, which may explain the previously characterized higher susceptibility of female mice to naphthalene toxicity. In both males and females, treatment-specific changes corresponding to lung remodeling, oxidative stress response, and DNA damage were observed. Overall, this study provides insights into potential mechanisms contributing to naphthalene toxicity and presents a novel approach for lung metabolomic analysis that distinguishes responses of major lung regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-222
Number of pages9
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • lung
  • metabolomics
  • microdissection
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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