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Acute exposure to air pollution is associated with novel changes in blood levels of endothelin-1 and circulating angiogenic cells in young, healthy adults

1 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medicine, University of Louisville, 505 S. Hancock Street, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
2 Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, University of Louisville, 302 E. Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
3 Diabetes & Obesity Center, University of Louisville, 580 S. Preston Street, Louisville, KY 40202, USA
4 Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Louisville, 500 S. Preston Street Louisville, KY 40202, USA
5 Department of Economics, College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, Brigham Young University, E 1060 N Street, Provo, UT 84604, USA

Acute and chronic exposures to particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution increase the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). A hypothesized mechanism linking PM2.5 exposure and CVD is the induction of endothelial dysfunction – a key step to increased CVD risk. Although PM2.5 exposure is associated with endothelial dysfunction and the vasoconstrictor peptide endothelin-1 (ET-1) is upregulated in endothelial dysfunction, the effects of PM2.5 on ET-1 and whether or not ET-1 mediates the downstream effects of PM2.5 are unclear. In addition to examining associations between acute changes in ambient PM2.5 and circulating levels of ET-1, we also looked at whether changes in ET-1 were associated with changes in markers of vascular health and systemic injury. For example, endothelial function is maintained in part by circulating angiogenic cell (CAC)-mediated repair, and our recent studies show that CACs in humans and mice are decreased by ambient PM2.5 exposure. In the current study, we recruited young, healthy adults who were exposed to natural variations in PM2.5, and we analyzed associations between PM2.5 and circulating levels of ET-1, between ET-1 and CACs, and between ET-1 and other biomarkers of injury using linear regression analyses. Surprisingly, ET-1 levels were negatively associated with PM2.5 levels (β = −0.773, P = 0.0005), yet, in contrast, positively associated with two CACs: CAC-2 (CD31 + /CD34 + /CD45 + ) and CAC-4 (CD31 + /CD34 + /CD45 + /CD133 + ). Interestingly, ET-1 levels were negatively associated with some biomarkers (platelet factor 4, β = −0.148, P = 0.0003; triglycerides, β = −0.095, P = 0.041) and positively with other biomarkers: albumin (β = 0.035, P = 0.006) and IL-1β (β = 0.082, P = 0.012). These findings further reveal the insidious nature of PM2.5’s anti-angiogenic effect including a novel relationship between ET-1 and CACs in young adults exposed to acute elevations of air pollution.
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