Circulatory metabolites trigger ex vivo arterial endothelial cell dysfunction in population chronically exposed to diesel exhaust

Wenting Cheng, Huanhuan Pang, Matthew J. Campen, Jianzhong Zhang, Yanting Li, Jinling Gao, Dunqiang Ren, Xiaoya Ji, Nathaniel Rothman, Qing Lan, Yuxin Zheng, Shuguang Leng, Zeping Hu, Jinglong Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic exposure to diesel exhaust has a causal link to cardiovascular diseases in various environmental and occupational settings. Arterial endothelial cell function plays an important role in ensuring proper maintenance of cardiovascular homeostasis and the endothelial cell dysfunction by circulatory inflammation is a hallmark in cardiovascular diseases. Acute exposure to diesel exhaust in controlled exposure studies leads to artery endothelial cells dysfunction in previous study, however the effect of chronic exposure remains unknown. Results: We applied an ex vivo endothelial biosensor assay for serum samples from 133 diesel engine testers (DETs) and 126 non-DETs with the aim of identifying evidence of increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. Environmental monitoring suggested that DETs were exposed to high levels of diesel exhaust aerosol (282.3 μg/m3 PM2.5 and 135.2 μg/m3 elemental carbon). Surprisingly, chronic diesel exhaust exposure was associated with a pro-inflammatory phenotype in the ex vivo endothelial cell model, in a dose-dependent manner with CCL5 and VCAM as most affected genes. This dysfunction was not mediated by reduction in circulatory pro-inflammatory factors but significantly associated with a reduction in circulatory metabolites cGMP and an increase in primary DNA damage in leucocyte in a dose-dependent manner, which also explained a large magnitude of association between diesel exhaust exposure and ex vivo endothelial biosensor response. Exogenous cGMP addition experiment further confirmed the induction of ex vivo biosensor gene expressions in endothelial cells treated with physiologically relevant levels of metabolites cGMP. Conclusion: Serum-borne bioactivity caused the arterial endothelial cell dysfunction may attribute to the circulatory metabolites based on the ex vivo biosensor assay. The reduced cGMP and increased polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons metabolites-induced cyto/geno-toxic play important role in the endothelial cell dysfunction of workers chronic exposure to diesel exhaust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiovascular disease risk
  • Circulatory metabolites
  • Diesel exhaust
  • Endothelial cell dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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