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BACKGROUND: Inhalation of diesel exhaust impairs vascular function in man, by a mechanism that has yet to be fully established. We hypothesised that pulmonary exposure to diesel exhaust particles (DEP) would cause endothelial dysfunction in rats as a consequence of pulmonary and systemic inflammation. METHODS: Wistar rats were exposed to DEP (0.5 mg) or saline vehicle by intratracheal instillation and hind-limb blood flow, blood pressure and heart rate were monitored in situ 6 or 24 h after exposure. Vascular function was tested by administration of the endothelium-dependent vasodilator acetylcholine (ACh) and the endothelium-independent vasodilator sodium nitroprusside (SNP) in vivo and ex vivo in isolated rings of thoracic aorta, femoral and mesenteric artery from DEP exposed rats. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and blood plasma were collected to assess pulmonary (cell differentials, protein levels & interleukin-6 (IL-6)) and systemic (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and C-reactive protein (CRP)) inflammation, respectively. RESULTS: DEP instillation increased cell counts, total protein and IL-6 in BALF 6 h after exposure, while levels of IL-6 and TNFα were only raised in blood 24 h after DEP exposure. DEP had no effect on the increased hind-limb blood flow induced by ACh in vivo at 6 or 24 h. However, responses to SNP were impaired at both time points. In contrast, ex vivo responses to ACh and SNP were unaltered in arteries isolated from rats exposed to DEP. CONCLUSIONS: Exposure of rats to DEP induces both pulmonary and systemic inflammation, but does not modify endothelium-dependent vasodilatation. Other mechanisms in vivo limit dilator responses to SNP and these require further investigation.

Original publication




Journal article


Part fibre toxicol

Publication Date





Animals, Aorta, Thoracic, Blood Cell Count, Blood Platelets, Blood Pressure, Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid, C-Reactive Protein, Cell Differentiation, Endothelium, Vascular, Endothelium-Dependent Relaxing Factors, Erythrocytes, Femoral Artery, Heart Rate, In Vitro Techniques, Interleukin-6, Leukocytes, Male, Mesenteric Arteries, Particulate Matter, Pneumonia, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Vasodilation, Vehicle Emissions