Particulate matter (PM2.5) from biomass combustion induces an anti-oxidative response and cancer drug resistance in human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells.
Nearly half of the world’s population relies on combustion of solid biofuels to cover fundamental energy demands. Epidemiologic data demonstrate that particularly long-term emissions adversely affect human health. However, pathological molecular mechanisms are insufficiently characterized. Here we demonstrate that long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from biomass combustion had no impact on cellular viability and proliferation but increased intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels in bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells. Exposure to PM2.5 induced the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and mediated an anti-oxidative response, including enhanced levels of intracellular glutathione (GSH) and nuclear accumulation of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). Activation of Nrf2 was promoted by the c-Jun N-terminal kinase JNK1/2, but not p38 or Akt, which were also induced by PM2.5. Furthermore, cells exposed to PM2.5 acquired chemoresistance to doxorubicin, which was associated with inhibition of apoptosis and elevated levels of GSH in these cells. Our findings propose that exposure to PM2.5 induces molecular defense mechanisms, which prevent cellular damage and may thus explain the initially relative rare complications associated with PM2.5. However, consistent induction of pro-survival pathways may also promote the progression of diseases. Environmental conditions inducing anti-oxidative responses may have the potential to promote a chemoresistant cellular phenotype.