Altered ion transport in normal human bronchial epithelial cells following exposure to chemically distinct metal welding fume particles

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Welding fume inhalation causes pulmonary toxicity, including susceptibility to infection. We hypothesized that airway epithelial ion transport is a target of fume toxicity, and investigated the effects of fume particulates from manual metal arc-stainless steel (MMA-SS) and gas metal arc-mild steel (GMA-MS) on ion transport in normal human bronchial epithelium (NHBE) cultured in air-interface. MMA-SS particles, more soluble than GMA-MS particles, contain Cr, Ni, Fe and Mn; GMA-MS particles contain Fe and Mn. MMA-SS or GMA-MS particles (0.0167–166.7 μg/cm2) were applied apically to NHBEs. After 18 h transepithelial potential difference (Vt), resistance (Rt), and short circuit current (Isc) were measured. Particle effects on Na+ and Cl- channels and the Na+,K+,2Cl--cotransporter were evaluated using amiloride (apical), 5-nitro-2-[(3-phenylpropyl)amino]benzoic acid (NPPB, apical), and bumetanide (basolateral), respectively. MMA-SS (0.0167–16.7 μg/cm2) increased basal Vt. Only 16.7 μg/cm2 GMA-MS increased basal Vt significantly. MMA-SS or GMA-MS exposure potentiated Isc responses (decreases) to amiloride and bumetanide, while not affecting those to NPPB, GMA-MS to a lesser degree than MMA-SS. Variable effects on Rt were observed in response to amiloride, and bumetanide. Generally, MMA-SS was more potent in altering responses to amiloride and bumetanide than GMA-MS. Hyperpolarization occurred in the absence of LDH release, but decreases in Vt, Rt, and Isc at higher fume particulate doses accompanied LDH release, to a greater extent for MMA-SS. Thus, Na+ transport and Na+,K+,2Cl--cotransport are affected by fume exposure; MMA-MS is more potent than GMA-MS. Enhanced Na+ absorption and decreased airway surface liquid could compromise defenses against infection.

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