Environmental toxicology and chemistry

Effects of environmental lead contamination on cattle in a lead/zinc mining area: changes in cattle immune systems on exposure to lead in vivo and in vitro.

PMID 22821446


The Republic of Zambia is rich in mineral resources, such as zinc (Zn) and lead (Pb), and mining is a key industry in Zambia. A previous study of Pb pollution in Kabwe, one of the main mining areas, found that soil was contaminated with high levels of toxic metals over a substantial area. In the present study, the authors focus on toxic metal pollution in cattle, one of the most important domestic animals in Zambia. Blood samples from cattle in Kabwe and a control area (Lusaka) were tested for toxic metal content. They also measured mRNA expression of metal-responsive proteins and cytokines in white blood cells using real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. In the present in vitro study, The authors cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from cattle, exposing them to Pb acetate for 24 h and analyzing mRNA expression of metal-responsive proteins and selected cytokines. Lead concentrations in cattle blood from Kabwe were significantly greater than those from Lusaka, as were the mRNA expressions of metallothionein-2 (MT-2), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). The present in vitro study demonstrated that Pb exposure led to an increase in the expressions of MT-2, TNF-α, IL-1β, and iNOS, similar to those found in vivo. These results indicate the possibility of immune system modulations in cattle from the Kabwe area.