Open Access Research

Effect of prolonged exposure to diesel engine exhaust on proinflammatory markers in different regions of the rat brain

Miriam E Gerlofs-Nijland1, Damien van Berlo2, Flemming R Cassee1, Roel PF Schins2, Kate Wang3 and Arezoo Campbell3*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Environmental Health, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, the Netherlands

2 Institut für umweltmedizinische Forschung (IUF) at the Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany

3 Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Western University of Health Sciences, 309 E. Second Street, Pomona, California 91766-1854, USA

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Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2010, 7:12  doi:10.1186/1743-8977-7-12

Published: 17 May 2010



The etiology and progression of neurodegenerative disorders depends on the interactions between a variety of factors including: aging, environmental exposures, and genetic susceptibility factors. Enhancement of proinflammatory events appears to be a common link in different neurological impairments, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis. Studies have shown a link between exposure to particulate matter (PM), present in air pollution, and enhancement of central nervous system proinflammatory markers. In the present study, the association between exposure to air pollution (AP), derived from a specific source (diesel engine), and neuroinflammation was investigated. To elucidate whether specific regions of the brain are more susceptible to exposure to diesel-derived AP, various loci of the brain were separately analyzed. Rats were exposed for 6 hrs a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks to diesel engine exhaust (DEE) using a nose-only exposure chamber. The day after the final exposure, the brain was dissected into the following regions: cerebellum, frontal cortex, hippocampus, olfactory bulb and tubercles, and the striatum.


Baseline levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1α) were dependent on the region analyzed and increased in the striatum after exposure to DEE. In addition, baseline level of activation of the transcription factors (NF-κB) and (AP-1) was also region dependent but the levels were not significantly altered after exposure to DEE. A similar, though not significant, trend was seen with the mRNA expression levels of TNF-α and TNF Receptor-subtype I (TNF-RI).


Our results indicate that different brain regions may be uniquely responsive to changes induced by exposure to DEE. This study once more underscores the role of neuroinflammation in response to ambient air pollution, however, it is valuable to assess if and to what extent the observed changes may impact the normal function and cellular integrity of unique brain regions.