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Original research
Particle depletion of diesel exhaust restores allergen-induced lung-protective surfactant protein D in human lungs


Rationale Exposure to air pollution is linked with increased asthma morbidity and mortality. To understand pathological processes linking air pollution and allergen exposures to asthma pathophysiology, we investigated the effect of coexposure to diesel exhaust (DE) and aeroallergen on immune regulatory proteins in human airways.

Methods Fourteen allergen-sensitised participants completed this randomised, double-blinded, cross-over, controlled exposure study. Each participant underwent four exposures (allergen-alone exposure, DE and allergen coexposure, particle-depleted DE (PDDE) and allergen coexposure, and sham exposure) on different order-randomised dates, each separated by a 4-week washout. Serum and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) were assayed for pattern recognition molecules, cytokines, chemokines and inflammatory mediators.

Results In human airways, allergen-alone exposure led to accumulation of surfactant protein D (SPD; p=0.02). Coexposure to allergen and DE did not elicit the same increase of SPD as did allergen alone; diesel particulate reduction restored allergen-induced SPD accumulation. Soluble receptor for advanced glycation end products was higher with particle reduction than without it. In the systemic circulation, there was a transient increase in SPD and club cell protein 16 (CC16) 4 hours after allergen alone. CC16 was augmented by PDDE, but not DE. % eosinophils in BAL (p<0.005), eotaxin-3 (p<0.0001), interleukin 5 (IL-5; p<0.0001) and thymus and activation regulated chemokine (p=0.0001) were each increased in BAL by allergen. IL-5, SPD and % eosinophils in BAL were correlated with decreased FEV1.

Conclusion Short-term coexposure to aeroallergen and DE alters immune regulatory proteins in lungs; surfactant levels are dependent on particle depletion.

Trial registration number NCT02017431.

  • asthma
  • surfactant protein
  • innate immunity
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