In utero ultrafine particulate matter exposure causes offspring pulmonary immunosuppression. Academic Article uri icon


  • Early life exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) in air is associated with infant respiratory disease and childhood asthma, but limited epidemiological data exist concerning the impacts of ultrafine particles (UFPs) on the etiology of childhood respiratory disease. Specifically, the role of UFPs in amplifying Th2- and/or Th17-driven inflammation (asthma promotion) or suppressing effector T cells (increased susceptibility to respiratory infection) remains unclear. Using a mouse model of in utero UFP exposure, we determined early immunological responses to house dust mite (HDM) allergen in offspring challenged from 0 to 4 wk of age. Two mice strains were exposed throughout gestation: C57BL/6 (sensitive to oxidative stress) and BALB/C (sensitive to allergen exposure). Offspring exposed to UFPs in utero exhibited reduced inflammatory response to HDM. Compared with filtered air (FA)-exposed/HDM-challenged mice, UFP-exposed offspring had lower white blood cell counts in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and less pronounced peribronchiolar inflammation in both strains, albeit more apparent in C57BL/6 mice. In the C57BL/6 strain, offspring exposed in utero to FA and challenged with HDM exhibited a robust response in inflammatory cytokines IL-13 and Il-17. In contrast, this response was lost in offspring exposed in utero to UFPs. Circulating IL-10 was significantly up-regulated in C57BL/6 offspring exposed to UFPs, suggesting increased regulatory T cell expression and suppressed Th2/Th17 response. Our results reveal that in utero UFP exposure at a level close to the WHO recommended PM guideline suppresses an early immune response to HDM allergen, likely predisposing neonates to respiratory infection and altering long-term pulmonary health.

published proceedings

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

altmetric score

  • 86

author list (cited authors)

  • Rychlik, K. A., Secrest, J. R., Lau, C., Pulczinski, J., Zamora, M. L., Leal, J., ... Johnson, N. M.

citation count

  • 60

complete list of authors

  • Rychlik, Kristal A||Secrest, Jeremiah R||Lau, Carmen||Pulczinski, Jairus||Zamora, Misti L||Leal, Jeann||Langley, Rebecca||Myatt, Louise G||Raju, Muppala||Chang, Richard C-A||Li, Yixin||Golding, Michael C||Rodrigues-Hoffmann, Aline||Molina, Mario J||Zhang, Renyi||Johnson, Natalie M

publication date

  • February 2019