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Benzo(a)pyrene attenuates the pattern-recognition-receptor induced proinflammatory phenotype of murine macrophages by inducing IL-10 expression in an aryl hydrocarbon receptor-dependent manner

: Füldner, Christiane; Kohlschmidt, Janine; Riemschneider, Sina; Schulze, Felix; Zoldan, Katharina; Esser, Charlotte; Hauschildt, Sunna; Lehmann, Jörg


Toxicology 409 (2018), pp.80-90
ISSN: 0300-483X
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IZI ()
AhR; BaP; Immunomodulation; macrophage

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) are environmental contaminants known to be immunosuppressive. Most effects of BaP towards immune cells are thought to be mediated through activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). The AhR is a ligand-activated transcription factor, which plays a critical modulatory role in various cells during immune response. Macrophages are key players in innate immunity against intracellular bacteria and are discussed to be a target of AhR-mediated immune regulation. However, so far there is only incomplete knowledge about the effects of BaP on activated macrophages and whether these effects are AhR-dependent in each case. Using murine bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs) stimulated with heat-killed salmonellae as a source of different pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) for stimulation of different pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) as an in-vitro model, we studied the immunomodulatory effects of low-dose BaP exposure. PRR-activated BMMs produced nitric oxide (NO) and a spectrum of proinflammatory cytokines, i.e. tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α interleukin (IL)-1β IL-6, and IL-12 but also the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. While BaP exposure suppressed the production of proinflammatory cytokines, the secretion of IL-10 was augmented. Moreover, BaP exposure increased the expression of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II), CD14, Fcγ receptor I (FcγRI/CD64), or CD86, enhanced NO production and phagocytosis what may be beneficial for phagocytosis and killing of microbial pathogens. Of note, without PRR activation low-dose BaP exposure has little influence on the macrophage phenotype. BMMs from AhR-deficient (Ahr −/−) mice were widely refractory to BaP-induced modulation of cytokine production, surface marker expression, and functional properties in response to PAMPs stimulation, indicating that these effects are dependent on AhR. In summary, these data suggest that induction of AhR-mediated signalling pathways by BaP may attenuate the proinflammatory phenotype of PRR-activated BMMs, while activating IL-10-mediated anti-inflammatory properties but also enhancing uptake and killing of pathogens as well as antigen presentation. Together these features imply a favourable role of BaP exposure for macrophage functions in an ongoing immune response. However, the strong induction of IL-10 may lead to defective pathogen clearance and subsequently to chronic persistent infection. This concept suggests an inhibitory rather than a supporting influence of environmental BaP on immunity to infection or cancer and also emphasises the important regulatory role of AhR in immunity and inflammation.