Airborne pollution is well documented as a risk factor for multiple airway diseases, and is implicated in aggravating autoimmunity, both systemically and in the lung. The mechanisms and true importance in human disease remains very unclear. In this grant we investigate the importance of particulate matter (PM), and specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in PM, to enhance Th17 differentiation and inflammation in the lung, which aggravates environmentally induced airway disease (EIAD). Our interest in this topic stems from experience with lung transplantation, where half of recipients develop bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) within 5 years of transplantation, leading to re-transplantation or death. BOS, considered to be chronic rejection of lung allografts, is thought to be the consequence of increased Th17 differentiation in the lung leading to graft destruction, but the mechanism is unknown and increased immunosuppression has not been successful in its treatment. In support of an environmental role in BOS are the recent reports showing that lung transplant recipients exposed to higher levels of atmospheric PM are at greater risk for development of BOS. Our overarching hypothesis is that EIADs including BOS are the consequence of the lung's intimate relationship with the airborne environment. We predict that subtle differences in the chemical constituencies of airborne PM have significant consequences for the normal immunology of this organ. The recent finding that the AHR plays a central role in the regulatory T cell (Treg)/Th17 balance, where some ligands of the AHR enhance Treg differentiation and others enhance Th17 differentiation has led us to predict that PAHs in PM are responsible for toxicant-induced inflammation seen after exposure to PM. We will explore the following aims:
Aim 1 : Identify the components contained in PM that impact T-cell differentiation.
Aim 2 : Define the AHR signal transduction steps required for the enhancement of IL-17 and IL-22 generation by PM.
Aim 3 : Determine whether PM exposure augments a pathogenic T cell response in a murine airway inflammation model and utilize novel transgenic mice to identify requirements of AHR expression. The unique features of this grant are the novelty of considering BOS as an EIAD, the ability we have based on our expertise to examine specific components of PM and their interaction with the AHR, the numerous recombinant mouse models at our disposal, and our ability to compare standard reference materials to real- world samples to develop and test a signature for components of PM that enhance airway inflammation. The connections of this project to public health are supported by the high incidence of EIAD, including asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and interstitial fibrosis, in addition to BOS. We predict that our findings will allow both avoidance strategies that will arise from our ability to predict which exposures are most likely to aggravate airway disease, to novel targets for treatment of EIAD. This will save the health care system billions of dollars in additio to minimizing significant morbidity and mortality of these common diseases.

Public Health Relevance

Environmentally induced airway disease (EIAD) represents an important group of diseases that cause significant morbidity and mortality including asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and interstitial fibrosis, and the pathogenesis of illness and the components of pollution that aggravate these diseases remain unclear. In this proposal we extend our own experience with the mechanisms of Bronchiolitis Obliterans Syndrome after lung transplant to explore whether the Th17-driven lung inflammation seen in this syndrome is similar to the pathogenesis of other EIADs. By documenting which components of inhaled pollution aggravate airway pathology and through what specific mechanism in which cells, we will be able to propose avoidance strategies and novel targets for future pharmaceutical treatment of patients suffering from these illnesses.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Humble, Michael C
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Medicine
United States
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O'Driscoll, Chelsea A; Gallo, Madeline E; Hoffmann, Erica J et al. (2018) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) present in ambient urban dust drive proinflammatory T cell and dendritic cell responses via the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) in vitro. PLoS One 13:e0209690
O'Driscoll, Chelsea A; Owens, Leah A; Gallo, Madeline E et al. (2018) Differential effects of diesel exhaust particles on T cell differentiation and autoimmune disease. Part Fibre Toxicol 15:35
Julliard, Walker; De Wolfe, Travis J; Fechner, John H et al. (2017) Amelioration of Clostridium difficile Infection in Mice by Dietary Supplementation With Indole-3-carbinol. Ann Surg 265:1183-1191
Julliard, W; Owens, L A; O'Driscoll, C A et al. (2016) Environmental Exposures-The Missing Link in Immune Responses After Transplantation. Am J Transplant 16:1358-64