Differences in the characteristics and pulmonary toxicity of nano- and micron-sized respirable coal dust


Background: The characteristics of coal dust (CD) particles affect the inhalation of CD, which causes coal worker’s pneumoconiosis (CWP). CD nanoparticles (CD-NPs, < 500 nm) and micron particles (CD-MPs, < 5 μm) are components of the respirable CD. However, the differences in physicochemical properties and pulmonary toxicity between CD-NPs and CD-MPs remain unclear. Methods: CD was analyzed by scanning electron microscopy, Malvern nanoparticle size potentiometer, energy dispersive spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy, and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. CCK-8 assay, ELISA, transmission electron microscope, JC-1 staining, reactive oxygen species activity probe, calcium ion fluorescent probe, AO/EB staining, flow cytometry, and western blot were used to determine the differences between CD-NPs and CD-MPs on acute pulmonary toxicity. CCK-8, scratch healing and Transwell assay, hematoxylin-eosin and Masson staining, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, and western blot were applied to examine the effects of CD-NPs and CD-MPs on pneumoconiosis. Results: Analysis of the size distribution of CD revealed that the samples had been size segregated. The carbon content of CD-NPs was greater than that of CD-MPs, and the oxygen, aluminum, and silicon contents were less. In in vitro experiments with A549 and BEAS-2B cells, CD-NPs, compared with CD-MPs, had more inflammatory vacuoles, release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-1β, TNFα) and profibrotic cytokines (CXCL2, TGFβ1), mitochondrial damage (reactive oxygen species and Ca2+ levels and decreased mitochondrial membrane potential), and cell death (apoptosis, pyroptosis, and necrosis). CD-NPs-induced fibrosis model cells had stronger proliferation, migration, and invasion than did CD-MPs. In in vivo experiments, lung coefficient, alveolar inflammation score, and lung tissue fibrosis score (mean: 1.1%, 1.33, 1.33) of CD-NPs were higher than those of CD-MPs (mean: 1.3%, 2.67, 2.67). CD-NPs accelerated the progression of pulmonary fibrosis by upregulating the expression of pro-fibrotic proteins and promoting epithelial-mesenchymal transition. The regulatory molecules involved were E-cadherin, N-cadherin, COL-1, COL-3, ZO-1, ZEB1, Slug, α-SMA, TGFβ1, and Vimentin. Conclusions: Stimulation with CD-NPs resulted in more pronounced acute and chronic lung toxicity than did stimulation with CD-MPs. These effects included acute inflammatory response, mitochondrial damage, pyroptosis, and necrosis, and more pulmonary fibrosis induced by epithelial-mesenchymal transition.

Authors: Yinci Zhang, Amin Li, Jiafeng Gao, Jiaojiao Liang, Niandie Cao, Shuping Zhou, Xiaolong Tang
; Full Source: Respiratory research 2022 Jul 30;23(1):197. doi: 10.1186/s12931-022-02120-8.