Effects of inhaled air pollution on markers of integrity, inflammation, and microbiota profiles of the intestines in Apolipoprotein E knockout mice

Megan N. Fitch, Danielle Phillippi, Yan Zhang, Jo Ann Lucero, Ravi S. Pandey, June Liu, Jeremy Brower, Michael S. Allen, Matthew J. Campen, Jacob D. McDonald, Amie K. Lund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Air pollution exposure is known to contribute to the progression of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and there is increasing evidence that dysbiosis of the gut microbiome may also play a role in the pathogenesis of CVD, including atherosclerosis. To date, the effects of inhaled air pollution mixtures on the intestinal epithelial barrier (IEB), and microbiota profiles are not well characterized, especially in susceptible individuals with comorbidity. Thus, we investigated the effects of inhaled ubiquitous air-pollutants, wood-smoke (WS) and mixed diesel and gasoline vehicle exhaust (MVE) on alterations in the expression of markers of integrity, inflammation, and microbiota profiles in the intestine of atherosclerotic Apolipoprotein E knockout (ApoE−/-) mice. To do this, male 8 wk-old ApoE−/- mice, on a high-fat diet, were exposed to either MVE (300 μg/m3 PM), WS; (∼450 μg/m3 PM), or filtered air (FA) for 6 h/d, 7 d/wk, for 50 d. Immunofluorescence and RT-PCR were used to quantify the expression of IEB components and inflammatory factors, including mucin (Muc)-2, tight junction (TJ) proteins, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and interleukin (IL)-1β, as well as Toll-like receptor (TLR)-4. Microbial profiling of the intestine was done using Illumina 16S sequencing of V4 16S rRNA PCR amplicons. We observed a decrease in intestinal Muc2 and TJ proteins in both MVE and WS exposures, compared to FA controls, associated with a significant increase in MMP-9, TLR-4, and inflammatory marker expression. Both WS and MVE-exposure resulted in decreased intestinal bacterial diversity, as well as alterations in microbiota profiles, including the Firmicutes: Bacteroidetes ratio at the phylum level. Our findings suggest inhalation exposure to either MVE or WS result in alterations in components involved in mucosal integrity, and also microbiota profiles and diversity, which are associated with increased markers of an inflammatory response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108913
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Air pollution
  • Inflammation
  • Intestine epithelial barrier
  • Microbiome


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