Effect of sulfur dioxide on inflammatory and immune regulation in asthmatic rats

Ruijin Li, Xiaojing Kou, Jingjing Tian, Ziqiang Meng, Zongwei CAI, Fangqin Cheng*, Chuan Dong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Exposure to sulfur dioxide (SO2) increases asthma risk. Inflammatory and immune responses are typical in asthma disease. The exact effect of SO2 on modulation of the inflammatory and immune responses in asthmatic rats remains unclear. Objectives: Here we sought to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the NF-κB inflammatory pathway and the Th1/Th2 imbalance in asthmatic rats exposed to SO2. Methods: Male Wistar rats were challenged by ovalbumin (OVA) or SO2 alone or together, and then mRNA and protein levels of some inflammatory and immune genes were measured. NF-κB nuclear translocation was analyzed. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), inflammatory cell counts and histopathologic examination were performed. Results: (1) OVA plus SO2 induced abnormal pathological changes and inflammatory responses in lung relative to exposure to OVA alone; (2) showing NF-κB nuclear translocation and activation through up-regulating IKKβ mRNA and protein expression and down-regulating IκBα expression in the presence of OVA or OVA plus SO2; (3) OVA plus SO2 significantly raised TNF-α and IL-6 levels in BALF compared with the OVA group; (4) SO2 markedly elevated IL-4 levels and decreased IFN-γ levels in BALF in the asthmatic rats, stimulating IgE generation which was closely related to inhibiting the expression of Foxp3, a specific marker of regulatory T cells. Conclusions: SO2 affects the airway inflammatory and immune responses of the asthmatic rats and enhances the susceptibility to OVA by aggravating inflammatory responses in lungs, up-regulating pro-inflammatory cytokine expression, and causing the Th1/Th2 imbalance, which might contribute to the increased risk of asthma disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-304
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Asthma
  • Immune regulation
  • Inflammatory regulation
  • Rats
  • Sulfur dioxide


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