Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and their quinones modulate the metabolic profile and induce DNA damage in human alveolar and bronchiolar cells

Deepak Gurbani, Santosh Kumar Bharti, Ashutosh Kumar, Alok K. Pandey, Godson R.E.E. Ana, Ambrish Verma, Altaf Husain Khan, Devendra K. Patel, M. K.R. Mudiam, Swatantra K. Jain, Raja Roy, Alok Dhawan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The release of particulate pollutants into the air through burning of coal, crude oil, diesel, coal tar, etc. raises concerns of potential health hazards to the exposed human population. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are major toxic constituents of particulate matter (PM), which upon ingestion get metabolized to even more toxic metabolites such as quinones. The PAHs levels were assessed in both respirable particulate matter (RSPM, <10μM size) and suspended particulate matter (SPM, >10μM size) of urban ambient air (UAA) and that of major contributors viz. diesel exhaust particles (DEPs) and coal tar combustions emissions (CTCE). Seven US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) prioritized PAHs in RSPM and 10 in SPM were detected in UAA. Ten and 15 prioritized PAHs, respectively, were also detected in diesel exhaust particles (DEP) and coal tar combustion emission (CTCE) evidencing their release in the air. These PM associated PAHs for UAA, DEP and CTCE showed significant increase (p<0.05) in mutagenicity and mammalian genotoxicity in the order CTCE>DEP>UAA. Human lung alveolar (A549) and bronchiolar (BEAS-2B) cells when treated with PAH-metabolites viz. 1,4-benzoquinone (1,4-BQ), hydroquinone (HQ), 1,2-naphthoquinone (1,2-NQ), 1,4-naphthoquinone (1,4-NQ) and 9,10-phenanthroquinone (9,10-PQ) showed metabolic modulation in these cell lines with significant depletion of principal cellular metabolites viz. NADP, uracil, asparagines, glutamine, and histidine and accumulation of di-methyl amine and beta-hydroxybutyrate, identified using 1H NMR spectroscopy. These results suggest that PAH-quinones induce genotoxic effects by modulating the metabolic machinery inside the cells by a combined effect of oxidative stress and energy depletion. Our data for metabolic profiling of human lung cells could also help in understanding the mechanism of toxicity of other xenobiotics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-565
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Genotoxicity
  • Human lung cells
  • Metabolic profiling
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Quinones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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