Organic dust exposure particularly within hog confinement facilities is a significant cause of airway inflammation and lung disease. In a cohort of Midwestern veterans with COPD and agricultural work exposure we observed reduced zinc intakes which were associated with decreased lung function. Because insufficient zinc intake is common within the U.S. and a potent modulator of innate immune function, we sought to determine whether deficits in zinc intake would impact the airway inflammatory response to hog confinement facility dust extract (HDE). Adult male C57BL/6 mice were randomized to zinc deficient or matched zinc sufficient diets for 3 weeks and subsequently treated with intranasal HDE inhalation or saline once or daily for 3 weeks while maintained on specific diets. Lavage fluid and lung tissue was collected. Conditions of zinc deficiency were also studied in macrophages exposed to HDE. Single and repetitive HDE inhalation exposure resulted in increased influx of total cells and neutrophils, increased mediator hyper-responsiveness (TNFα, IL-6, CXCL1, and amphiregulin), and enhanced tissue pathology that was more pronounced in zinc deficient mice compared to normal dietary counterparts. Airway inflammation was most pronounced in zinc deficient mice treated with repetitive HDE for 3 weeks. Similarly, macrophages maintained in a zinc deficient environment exhibited increased CXCL1 and IL-23 production as a result of increased NF-κB activation. Conclusion: Given the relatively high incidence of dietary deficiencies in agriculture workers, we anticipate that zinc intake, or a lack thereof, may play an important role in modulating the host response to organic dust exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-64
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Inflammation
  • Innate immunity
  • Lung
  • Organic dust
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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