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      Lung inflammation caused by inhaled toxicants: a review

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          Exposure of the lungs to airborne toxicants from different sources in the environment may lead to acute and chronic pulmonary or even systemic inflammation. Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, although wood smoke in urban areas of underdeveloped countries is now recognized as a leading cause of respiratory disease. Mycotoxins from fungal spores pose an occupational risk for respiratory illness and also present a health hazard to those living in damp buildings. Microscopic airborne particulates of asbestos and silica (from building materials) and those of heavy metals (from paint) are additional sources of indoor air pollution that contributes to respiratory illness and is known to cause respiratory illness in experimental animals. Ricin in aerosolized form is a potential bioweapon that is extremely toxic yet relatively easy to produce. Although the aforementioned agents belong to different classes of toxic chemicals, their pathogenicity is similar. They induce the recruitment and activation of macrophages, activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, inhibition of protein synthesis, and production of interleukin-1 beta. Targeting either macrophages (using nanoparticles) or the production of interleukin-1 beta (using inhibitors against protein kinases, NOD-like receptor protein-3, or P2X7) may potentially be employed to treat these types of lung inflammation without affecting the natural immune response to bacterial infections.

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          Most cited references 157

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          Mitogen-activated protein kinases in innate immunity.

          Following pathogen infection or tissue damage, the stimulation of pattern recognition receptors on the cell surface and in the cytoplasm of innate immune cells activates members of each of the major mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) subfamilies--the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p38 and Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) subfamilies. In conjunction with the activation of nuclear factor-κB and interferon-regulatory factor transcription factors, MAPK activation induces the expression of multiple genes that together regulate the inflammatory response. In this Review, we discuss our current knowledge about the regulation and the function of MAPKs in innate immunity, as well as the importance of negative feedback loops in limiting MAPK activity to prevent host tissue damage. We also examine how pathogens have evolved complex mechanisms to manipulate MAPK activation to increase their virulence. Finally, we consider the potential of the pharmacological targeting of MAPK pathways to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
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            Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microfungi that are capable of causing disease and death in humans and other animals. Because of their pharmacological activity, some mycotoxins or mycotoxin derivatives have found use as antibiotics, growth promotants, and other kinds of drugs; still others have been implicated as chemical warfare agents. This review focuses on the most important ones associated with human and veterinary diseases, including aflatoxin, citrinin, ergot akaloids, fumonisins, ochratoxin A, patulin, trichothecenes, and zearalenone.
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              The Nalp3 inflammasome is essential for the development of silicosis.

              Inhalation of crystalline silica and asbestos is known to cause the progressive pulmonary fibrotic disorders silicosis and asbestosis, respectively. Although alveolar macrophages are believed to initiate these inflammatory responses, the mechanism by which this occurs has been unclear. Here we show that the inflammatory response and subsequent development of pulmonary fibrosis after inhalation of silica is dependent on the Nalp3 inflammasome. Stimulation of macrophages with silica results in the activation of caspase-1 in a Nalp3-dependent manner. Macrophages deficient in components of the Nalp3 inflammasome were incapable of secreting the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1beta and IL-18 in response to silica. Similarly, asbestos was capable of activating caspase-1 in a Nalp3-dependent manner. Activation of the Nalp3 inflammasome by silica required both an efflux of intracellular potassium and the generation of reactive oxygen species. This study demonstrates a key role for the Nalp3 inflammasome in the pathogenesis of pneumoconiosis.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                23 June 2016
                : 11
                : 1391-1401
                School of Nursing, MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, MA, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: John Wong, School of Nursing, MGH Institute of Health Professions, 36, 1st Street, Boston, MA 02129, USA, Tel +1 617 724 3623, Fax +1 617 952 6060, Email jwong1@
                © 2016 Wong et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.


                Respiratory medicine

                inhibitors, cigarette, mycotoxin, trichothecene, ricin, inflammasome, macrophage


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