Particulate matter (PM) pollution is a leading cause of premature death, particularly in those with pre-existing lung disease. A causative link between particle properties and adverse health effects remains unestablished mainly due to complex and variable physico-chemical PM parameters. Controlled laboratory experiments are required. Generating atmospherically realistic aerosols and performing cell-exposure studies at relevant particle-doses are challenging. Here we examine gasoline-exhaust particle toxicity from a Euro-5 passenger car in a uniquely realistic exposure scenario, combining a smog chamber simulating atmospheric ageing, an aerosol enrichment system varying particle number concentration independent of particle chemistry, and an aerosol deposition chamber physiologically delivering particles on air-liquid interface (ALI) cultures reproducing normal and susceptible health status. Gasoline-exhaust is an important PM source with largely unknown health effects. We investigated acute responses of fully-differentiated normal, distressed (antibiotics-treated) normal, and cystic fibrosis human bronchial epithelia (HBE), and a proliferating, single-cell type bronchial epithelial cell-line (BEAS-2B). We show that a single, short-term exposure to realistic doses of atmospherically-aged gasoline-exhaust particles impairs epithelial key-defence mechanisms, rendering it more vulnerable to subsequent hazards. We establish dose-response curves at realistic particle-concentration levels. Significant differences between cell models suggest the use of fully-differentiated HBE is most appropriate in future toxicity studies.
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