The toxicological analysis of secondary organic aerosol in human lung epithelial cells and macrophages

  • Tomohiro ItoEmail author
  • Kanae Bekki
  • Yuji Fujitani
  • Seishiro Hirano
Research Article


Secondary organic aerosol (SOA) is a component of airborne particulate matter in urban areas. However, their toxicities remain incompletely understood. In this study, we investigated the oxidative and inflammatory potency of SOA derived from three different volatile organic compounds (α-pinene, m-xylene, and trimethylbenzene) using human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B) and macrophages (U937). In BEAS-2B cells, all types of SOA extracts increased the expression of the heme oxygenase 1 (HMOX1) and interleukin-8 (IL8) genes, a typical marker for oxidative stress and inflammatory responses, respectively. Among the three types of SOA, m-xylene-derived SOA showed the strongest induction of the HMOX1 and IL8 genes, and transcriptional activity via the antioxidant response element (ARE). A causal candidate for SOA induction of oxidative stress is 2,6-dimethyl-1,4-benzoquinone (DMBQ) because only this quinone compound increased the transcriptional activity via ARE among components tested in this study. Similar to the case of BEAS-2B cells, SOA extracts increased the expression of HMOX1 and IL8 genes in U937 cells, mainly through oxidative stress, but these responses in U937 cells were prolonged when compared with BEAS-2B cells. Together, these results show that SOA affects lung epithelial cells and macrophages mainly through oxidative stress and inflammation, suggesting their contribution to the development of respiratory diseases.


Secondary organic aerosol Epithelial cells Macrophages Oxidative stress Inflammation 



The authors wish to thank Ms. M. Ihara (National Institute for Environmental Studies) and Mr. T. Fujii (Horiba Techno Service) for their excellent technical assistance. We also thank A. Matsushima, M. Fujii, and M. Ikezawa for their secretary assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Health and Environmental Risk ResearchNational Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan

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