Open Access Research

Regulation of the arachidonic acid mobilization in macrophages by combustion-derived particles

Susanne Fritsch-Decker1, Tanja Both1, Sonja Mülhopt2, Hanns-Rudolf Paur2, Carsten Weiss1 and Silvia Diabaté1*

Author Affiliations

1 Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Campus North, Institute of Toxicology and Genetics, Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Platz 1, 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

2 Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Campus North, Institute of Technical Chemistry, Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Platz 1, 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

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Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2011, 8:23  doi:10.1186/1743-8977-8-23

Published: 2 August 2011



Acute exposure to elevated levels of environmental particulate matter (PM) is associated with increasing morbidity and mortality rates. These adverse health effects, e.g. culminating in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, have been demonstrated by a multitude of epidemiological studies. However, the underlying mechanisms relevant for toxicity are not completely understood. Especially the role of particle-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS), oxidative stress and inflammatory responses is of particular interest.

In this in vitro study we examined the influence of particle-generated ROS on signalling pathways leading to activation of the arachidonic acid (AA) cascade. Incinerator fly ash particles (MAF02) were used as a model for real-life combustion-derived particulate matter. As macrophages, besides epithelial cells, are the major targets of particle actions in the lung murine RAW264.7 macrophages and primary human macrophages were investigated.


The interaction of fly ash particles with macrophages induced both the generation of ROS and as part of the cellular inflammatory responses a dose- and time-dependent increase of free AA, prostaglandin E2/thromboxane B2 (PGE2/TXB2), and 8-isoprostane, a non-enzymatically formed oxidation product of AA. Additionally, increased phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) JNK1/2, p38 and ERK1/2 was observed, the latter of which was shown to be involved in MAF02-generated AA mobilization and phosphorylation of the cytosolic phospolipase A2. Using specific inhibitors for the different phospolipase A2 isoforms the MAF02-induced AA liberation was shown to be dependent on the cytosolic phospholipase A2, but not on the secretory and calcium-independent phospholipase A2. The initiation of the AA pathway due to MAF02 particle exposure was demonstrated to depend on the formation of ROS since the presence of the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) prevented the MAF02-mediated enhancement of free AA, the subsequent conversion to PGE2/TXB2 via the induction of COX-2 and the ERK1/2 and JNK1/2 phosphorylation. Finally we showed that the particle-induced formation of ROS, liberation of AA and PGE2/TXB2 together with the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and JNK1/2 proteins was decreased after pre-treatment of macrophages with the metal chelator deferoxamine mesylate (DFO).


These results indicate that one of the primary mechanism initiating inflammatory processes by incinerator fly ash particles seems to be the metal-mediated generation of ROS, which triggers via the MAPK cascade the activation of AA signalling pathway.