The biological effects of acute particulate air pollution exposure in host innate immunity remain obscure and have relied largely on in vitro models. We hypothesized that single acute exposure to ambient or engineered particulate matter (PM) in the absence of other secondary stimuli would activate lung dendritic cells (DC) in vivo and provide information on the early immunological events of PM exposure and DC activation in a mouse model naïve to prior PM exposure. Activation of purified lung DC was studied following oropharyngeal instillation of ambient particulate matter (APM). We compared the effects of APM exposure with that of diesel-enriched PM (DEP), carbon black particles (CBP) and silver nanoparticles (AgP). We found that PM species induced variable cellular infiltration in the lungs and only APM exposure induced eosinophilic infiltration. Both APM and DEP activated pulmonary DC and promoted a Th2-type cytokine response from naïve CD4+ T cells ex vivo. Cultures of primary peribronchial lymph node cells from mice exposed to APM and DEP also displayed a Th2-type immune response ex vivo. We conclude that exposure of the lower airway to various PM species induces differential immunological responses and immunomodulation of DC subsets. Environmental APM and DEP activated DC in vivo and provoked a Th2 response ex vivo. By contrast, CBP and AgP induced altered lung tissue barrier integrity but failed to stimulate CD4+ T cells as effectively. Our work suggests that respirable pollutants activate the innate immune response with enhanced DC activation, pulmonary inflammation and Th2-immune responsiveness.

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