Petroleum coke exposure leads to altered secretome profiles in human lung models

JA Caruso and PM Stemmer

Petroleum coke (PC) is a coal-like product that is produced during the refinement of crude oil and bituminous sand. Fugitive dust from open storage of PC in urban areas is a potential human health concern. Animal inhalation studies suggest that PC leads to an adverse pulmonary histopathology, including areas of fibrosis and chronic inflammation; however, little is known about its impact on human health. In order to identify biomarkers and cellular pathways that are associated with exposure, we performed two-dimensional liquid chromatography–mass spectrometric analyses on secreted proteins from two human lung culture models. A total of 2795 proteins were identified and relatively quantified from an immortalized cell line and 2406 proteins from primary cultures that were either mock treated or exposed to particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5–10 mm PC or filtered urban air particulates for 16 h. Pathway analysis on secretomes from primary lung cultures indicated that PC exposure suppressed the secretion of proteins involved in the organization of the extracellular matrix and epithelial differentiation. Because these cellular processes could facilitate fibrosis, we performed chronic 12-day exposure studies on three-dimensional human lung cultures consisting of epithelia and stromal fibroblasts. Relative to mock-treated cells, matrix metallopeptidase 9 levels in the conditioned media were lower by 4 days postexposure and remained suppressed for the duration of the experiment. Immunocytochemical staining of collagen III, a marker associated with fibrosis, showed increased accumulation in the epithelial layer and at the air–liquid interface.


EpiAirway, EpiAirway-FT, petroleum coke, inhalation toxicity, dust, fibrosis, particular matter, urban particulate, secretome, proteomics, chronic exposure, MMP-9, MMP-7, TGF-b1, collagen 3, E-cadherin, vimentin, fibronectin, LDH, A549 cells, immune response, ECM degradation, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, cell migration, cell differentiation, matrix organization, posstrans, RNA processing, glycosylation, SERPINE1, LAMA5, MMP10, PCOLCE, MMP9, PCOLCE2, CTSB, MMP10, RBM8A, HNRNPA3, SF3B4, CXCL5, CX3CL1, CXCL16, B3GNT2

Materials Tested

petroleum coke, urban particulate matter, TGF-b1

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