PLoS One. 2021 Aug 26;16(8):e0254587. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254587. eCollection 2021.
Although numerous epidemiological studies revealed an association between ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the PM2.5-induced neuron toxicity and associated mechanisms were not fully elucidated. The present study assessed brain toxicity in 6-month-old female triple-transgenic AD (3xTg-AD) mice following subchronic exposure to PM2.5 via an inhalation system. The treated mice were whole-bodily and continuously exposed to real-world PM2.5 for 3 months, while the control mice inhaled filtered air. Changes in cognitive and motor functions were evaluated using the Morris Water Maze and rotarod tests. Magnetic resonance imaging analysis was used to record gross brain volume alterations, and tissue staining with hematoxylin and eosin, Nissl, and immunohistochemistry methods were used to monitor pathological changes in microstructures after PM2.5 exposure. The levels of AD-related hallmarks and the oxidative stress biomarker malondialdehyde (MDA) were assessed using Western blot analysis and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, respectively. Our results showed that subchronic exposure to environmental levels of PM2.5 induced obvious neuronal loss in the cortex of exposed mice, but without significant impairment of cognitive and motor function. Increased levels of phosphorylated-tau and MDA were also observed in olfactory bulb or hippocampus after PM2.5 exposure, but no amyloid pathology was detected, as reported in previous studies. These results revealed that a relatively lower level of PM2.5 subchronic exposure from the environmental atmosphere still induced certain neurodegenerative changes in the brains of AD mice, especially in the olfactory bulb, entorhinal cortex and hippocampus, which is consistent with the nasal entry and spreading route for PM exposure. Systemic factors may also contribute to the neuronal toxicity. The effects of PM2.5 after a more prolonged exposure period are needed to establish a more comprehensive picture of the PM2.5-mediated development of AD.
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