Neurogenic responses in rat lungs after nose-only exposure to diesel exhaust.

Mark L. Witten, Simon S. Wong, Nina N. Sun, Ingegerd Keith, Chol Bum Kweon, David E. Foster, James J. Schauer, Duane L. Sherrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Using an in-line, real-time, in vivo exposure system, we investigated whether acute adverse effects of diesel exhaust (DE*) exposure involve neurogenic inflammation in the lungs via sensory nerve C fibers. A total of 168 female F344 rats (175 g, 8 weeks old) were randomly assigned to pretreatment with capsaicin or saline to deplete C-fiber neurotransmitters. In a 2 x 3 factorial design, groups of animals were then exposed nose-only to a low level of DE (LDE, 35.3 microg/m3), a high level of DE (HDE, 632.9 microg/m3), or side-stream cigarette smoke (CS, 0.4 mg/m3). Two control groups were exposed whole body to filtered air in the animal room (fRA) or unfiltered air in the diesel engine room (eRA), respectively. DE was taken directly from a heavy-duty Cummins N14 research engine operated at 75% throttle (California Air Resources Board [CARB] 8, mode 6). Exposure to DE or air was 4 hours/day, 5 days/week, for 3 weeks. Exposure to CS was for 4 hours/day for 7 days. Involvement of neurogenic inflammation in the response to DE or CS was assessed via comparison of plasma extravasation, a sensitive endpoint of neurogenic inflammation, between rats with and without capsaicin pretreatment. Lung injury was assessed via analysis of proinflammatory cytokines, respiratory permeability, and histopathology. Moreover, whether DE exposure affected the molecular mechanisms of neurogenic inflammation was analyzed through quantification of substance P (SP) and its primary neurokinin-1 (NK1) receptor at the gene and protein levels and through neutral endopeptidase (NEP) activity. DE and CS exposure induced dose-dependent plasma extravasation, which may play an important role in initiating the associated lung inflammation and injury. Exposure of rats to DE affected the SP signaling pathway as indicated by overexpression of the NK1 receptor or reduction of SP in the lung tissue. DE exposure consistently inactivated tissue NEP, a key factor that switches neurogenic inflammation from its physiological and protective functions to a role that increases and perpetuates lung injury. The roles of these overlapping neurokininergic mechanisms in the initiation of DE-associated lung injury are plausible, and these changes may contribute to DE-associated respiratory disorders. Capsaicin rats followed the same trends as those of saline animals when exposed to DE or CS: capsaicin rats did not have significantly different plasma extravasation in the airways or lung parenchyma compared to their corresponding controls. Histopathology evaluation likewise demonstrated the same degree of tissue changes, such as edema and alveolar macrophage collection, in capsaicin and saline rats after the same level of DE exposure. In summary, our data suggest that neurokininergic mechanisms may have been involved in DE-induced inflammatory conditions in rat lung but that C fibers did not appear to be involved under these exposure conditions. We believe that time-course or protein knockdown/knockout animal studies are required to characterize further the role of neurokininergic mechanisms in DE-induced lung injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-37; discussion 39-3747
JournalResearch report (Health Effects Institute)
Issue number128
StatePublished - Jan 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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