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Pathological Cardiopulmonary Evaluation of Rats Chronically Exposed to Traffic-Related Air Pollution.

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Traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) is made up of complex mixtures of particulate matter, gases and volatile compounds. However, the effects of TRAP on the cardiopulmonary system in most animal studies have been tested using acute exposure to singular pollutants. The cardiopulmonary effects and molecular mechanisms in animals that are chronically exposed to unmodified air pollution as a whole have yet to be studied. Additionally, sex-dependent toxicity of TRAP exposure has rarely been evaluated.


This study sought to assess the cardiopulmonary effect of chronic exposure to unmodified, real-world TRAP in both female and male rats.


Four-week-old male and female rats were exposed to TRAP or filtered air for 14 months in a novel facility drawing air from a major freeway tunnel system in Northern California. Inflammation and oxidative stress markers were examined in the lung, heart, spleen, and plasma, and TRAP deposits were quantified in the lungs of both male and female rats.


Elemental analysis showed higher levels of eight elements in the female lungs and one element in the male lungs. Expression of genes related to fibrosis, aging, oxidative stress, and inflammation were higher in the rat hearts exposed to TRAP, with female rats being more susceptible than males. Enhanced collagen accumulation was found only in the TRAP-exposed female hearts. Plasma cytokine secretion was higher in both female and male rats, but inflammatory macrophages were higher only in TRAP-exposed male spleens.


Our results in rats suggest pathological consequences from chronic TRAP exposure, including sex differences indicating females may be more susceptible to TRAP-induced cardiac fibrosis.

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