Organic barn dust extract exposure impairs porcine macrophage function in vitro: Implications for respiratory health

Susan M. Knetter, Christopher K. Tuggle, Michael J. Wannemuehler, Amanda E. Ramer-Tait

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Respiratory diseases are responsible for a significant amount of animal morbidity and mortality in the swine industry, including the majority of nursery and grower/finisher deaths. Innate immunity, including the maintenance of lung macrophage health and function, is an important defense mechanism against respiratory pathogens and their associated losses. Chronic exposure of swine industry workers to airborne barn dust results in significant predisposition to airway diseases and impairment of alveolar macrophage (AMφ) function. Because of their importance in maintaining normal respiratory function, this study was designed to evaluate the impact of barn dust on swine macrophages. As measures of macrophage function, we evaluated the activation of NF-κB, cytokine production, cell surface marker expression and the phagocytic and antibacterial capabilities of porcine macrophages after in vitro exposure to an organic swine barn dust extract (ODE). ODE treatment induced AMφ secretion of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting a complex activation profile. Additionally, ODE induced expression of genes (TLR2, NOD2) involved in sensing Gram-positive bacteria, a major component of barn dust. ODE exposure also enhanced the expression of several cell surface markers of activation, including a receptor for the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. Moreover, two key functions of AMφ, phagocytosis and bacterial killing, were impaired after exposure to ODE. Treatment with ODE for the first 72. h of differentiation also inhibited the ability of monocyte-derived macrophages to translocate NF-κB to the nucleus following endotoxin stimulation. Taken together, these results demonstrate, for the first time, that organic dust extract exposure negatively affects pig macrophage activation and function, potentially enhancing host susceptibility to a variety of respiratory infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2014


  • Airway inflammation
  • Macrophage
  • Organic dust extract
  • Pig
  • Respiratory disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • veterinary(all)


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