The chemical composition of particles varies with space and time and depends on emission sources, atmospheric chemistry and weather conditions. Evidence suggesting that particles differ in toxicity depending on their chemical composition is growing. This in vitro study investigated the biological effects of PM10
in relation to PM-associated chemicals. PM10
was sampled in ambient air at an urban traffic site (Borgerhout) and a rural background location (Houtem) in Flanders (Belgium). To characterize the toxic potential of PM10
, airway epithelial cells (Beas-2B cells) were exposed to particles in vitro. Different endpoints were studied including cell damage and death (cell viability) and the induction of interleukin-8 (IL-8). The mutagenic capacity was assessed using the Ames II Mutagenicity Test. The endotoxin levels in the collected samples were analyzed and the oxidative potential (OP) of PM10
particles was evaluated by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. Chemical characteristics of PM10
included tracers for biomass burning (levoglucosan, mannosan and galactosan), elemental and organic carbon (EC/OC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Most samples displayed dose-dependent cytotoxicity and IL-8 induction. Spatial and temporal differences in PM10
toxicity were seen. PM10
collected at the urban site was characterized by increased pro-inflammatory and mutagenic activity as well as higher OP and elevated endotoxin levels compared to the background area. Reduced cell viability (−0.46 < rs
< −0.35, p
< 0.01) and IL-8 induction (−0.62 < rs
< −0.67, p
< 0.01) were associated with all markers for biomass burning, levoglucosan, mannosan and galactosan. Furthermore, direct and indirect mutagenicity were associated with tracers for biomass burning, OC, EC and PAHs. Multiple regression analyses showed levoglucosan to explain 16% and 28% of the variance in direct and indirect mutagenicity, respectively. Markers for biomass burning were associated with altered cellular responses and increased mutagenic activity. These findings may indicate a role of biomass burning in the observed adverse health effect of particulate matter.
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