Bitumen fume-induced gene expression profile in rat lung

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Exposure to bitumen fumes during paving and roofing activities may represent an occupational health risk. To date, most of the studies performed on the biological effect of asphalt fumes have been done with regard to their content in carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). In order to gain an additional insight into the mechanisms of action of bitumen fumes, we studied their pulmonary effects in rodents following inhalation using the microarray technology. Fisher 344 rats were exposed for 5 days, 6 h/day to bitumen fumes generated at road paving temperature (170 °C) using a nose-only exposition device. With the intention of studying the early transcriptional events induced by asphalt fumes, lung tissues were collected immediately following exposure and gene expression profiles in control and exposed rats were determined by using oligonucleotide microarrays. Data analysis revealed that genes involved in lung inflammatory response as well as genes associated with PAH metabolization and detoxification were highly expressed in bitumen-exposed animals. In addition, the expression of genes related to elastase activity and its inhibition which are associated with emphysema was also modulated. More interestingly genes coding for monoamine oxidases A and B involved in the metabolism of neurotransmitters and xenobiotics were downregulated in exposed rats. Altogether, these data give additional information concerning the bitumen fumes biological effects and would allow to better review the health effects of occupational asphalt fumes exposure.

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