Alterations of A549 lung cell gene expression in response to biochemical toxins

D. E. Boesewetter, J. L. Collier, A. M. Kim, M. R. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Health risks associated with the inhalation of potentially toxic materials have been a topic of great public concern. In vitro cellular analyses can provide mechanistic information on the molecular-level responses of lung-derived cell lines to a variety of these hazards. This understanding may be used to develop methods to reduce the damage from such toxins or to detect early stages of their effects. Here we describe an evaluation of the alterations in gene expression of an immortalized lung cell line (A549, human type II epithelia) to a variety of inhalation health hazards including etoposide, gliotoxin, streptolysin O, methyl methansesulfonate (MMS), and Triton X-100. The A549 cells display a dose-response relationship to each toxin with initial responses including alterations in metabolic activity, increases in membrane permeability, and initiation of response genes. In general, membrane-damaging agents (streptolysin O and Triton X-100) induce production of new ion channel proteins, structural proteins, and metabolic enzymes. Gliotoxin impacted the metabolic machinery, but also altered ion channels. Etoposide and MMS caused alterations in the cell cycle, induced DNA repair enzymes, and initiated apoptotic pathways, but MMS also induced immune response cascades. The mechanism of cell response to each toxin is supported by physiological analyses that indicated a fairly slow initiation of cell response to all compounds tested, except for Triton, which caused rapid decline in cell function due to solubilization of the cell membrane. However, Triton does induce production of a number of cell membrane-associated proteins and so its effects at low concentrations are likely translated throughout the cell. Together these results indicate a broader array of cellular responses to each of the test toxins than have previously been reported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-118
Number of pages18
JournalCell Biology and Toxicology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell culture
  • Gene expression
  • Human lung cells
  • Inhalation hazards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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