Differential immunomodulatory responses to nine polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons applied by passive dosing

Gertie J. Oostingh, Kilian E. C. Smith, Ulrike Tischler, Isabella Radauer-Preiml, Philipp Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Studying the effects of hydrophobic chemicals using in vitro cell based methods is hindered by the difficulty in bringing and keeping these chemicals in solution. Their effective concentrations are often lower than their nominal concentrations. Passive dosing is one approach that provides defined and stable dissolved concentrations during in vitro testing, and was applied to control and maintain freely dissolved concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at levels up to their aqueous solubility limit. The immunomodulatory effects of 9 different PAHs at aqueous solubility on human bronchial epithelial cells were determined by analysing the cytoldne promoter expression of 4 different inflammatory cytokines using stably transfected recombinant A549 cell lines. Diverse immunomodulatory responses were found with the highest induction observed for the most hydrophobic PAHs chrysene, benzo(a)antracene and benzo(a)pyrene. Cytokine promoter expression was then studied in dose response experiments with acenaphthene, phenanthrene and benzo(a)anthracene. The strongest induction was observed for benzo(a)anthracene. Cell viability analysis was performed and showed that none of the PAHs induced cytotoxicity at any of the concentrations tested. Overall, this study shows that (1) immunomodulatory effects of PAHs can be studied in vitro at controlled freely dissolved concentrations, (2) the most hydrophobic PAHs were the strongest inducers and (3) induction was often higher at lower exposure levels and decreased then with concentration despite the apparent absence of cytotoxicity. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalToxicology in Vitro
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)345-351
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Passive dosing
  • Cell culture
  • Immunomodulation


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