Ambient fine particulate matters induce cell death and inflammatory response by influencing mitochondria function in human corneal epithelial cells

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Ambient fine particulate matter (AFP) is a main risk factor for the cornea as ultraviolet light. However, the mechanism of corneal damage following exposure to AFP has been poorly understood. In this study, we first confirmed that AFP can penetrate the cornea of mice, considering that two-dimensional cell culture systems are limited in reflecting the situation in vivo. Then, we investigated the toxic mechanism using human corneal epithelial (HCET) cells. At 24 h after exposure, AFP located within the autophagosome-like vacuoles, and cell proliferation was clearly inhibited in all the tested concentration. Production of ROS and NO and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines were elevated in a dose-dependent manner. Additionally, conversion of LC3B from I-type to II-type and activation of caspase cascade which show autophagic- and apoptotic cell death, respectively, were observed in cells exposed to AFP. Furthermore, AFP decreased mitochondrial volume, inhibited ATP production, and altered the expression of metabolism-related genes. Taken together, we suggest that AFP induces cell death and inflammatory response by influencing mitochondrial function in HCET cells. In addition, we recommend that stringent air quality regulations are needed for eye health.

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