Secondhand Smoke-Prevalent Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Binary Mixture-Induced Specific Mitogenic and Pro-inflammatory Cell Signaling Events in Lung Epithelial Cells

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Low molecular weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (LMW PAHs; < 206.3 g/mol) are prevalent and ubiquitous environmental contaminants, presenting a human health concern, and have not been as thoroughly studied as the high MW PAHs. LMW PAHs exert their pulmonary effects, in part, through P38-dependent and -independent mechanisms involving cell-cell communication and the production of pro-inflammatory mediators known to contribute to lung disease. Specifically, we determined the effects of two representative LMW PAHs, 1-methylanthracene (1-MeA) and fluoranthene (Flthn), individually and as a binary PAH mixture on the dysregulation of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) and connexin 43 (Cx43), activation of mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPK), and induction of inflammatory mediators in a mouse non-tumorigenic alveolar type II cell line (C10). Both 1-MeA, Flthn, and the binary PAH mixture of 1-MeA and Flthn dysregulated GJIC in a dose and time-dependent manner, reduced Cx43 protein, and activated the following MAPKs: P38, ERK1/2, and JNK. Inhibition of P38 MAPK prevented PAH-induced dysregulation of GJIC, whereas inhibiting ERK and JNK did not prevent these PAHs from dysregulating GJIC indicating a P38-dependent mechanism. A toxicogenomic approach revealed significant P38-dependent and -independent pathways involved in inflammation, steroid synthesis, metabolism, and oxidative responses. Genes in these pathways were significantly altered by the binary PAH mixture when compared with 1-MeA and Flthn alone suggesting interactive effects. Exposure to the binary PAH mixture induced the production and release of cytokines and metalloproteinases from the C10 cells. Our findings with a binary mixture of PAHs suggest that combinations of LMW PAHs may elicit synergistic or additive inflammatory responses which warrant further investigation and confirmation.

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