PloS one

Silica Triggers Inflammation and Ectopic Lymphoid Neogenesis in the Lungs in Parallel with Accelerated Onset of Systemic Autoimmunity and Glomerulonephritis in the Lupus-Prone NZBWF1 Mouse.

PMID 25978333


Genetic predisposition and environmental factors influence the development of human autoimmune disease. Occupational exposure to crystalline silica (cSiO2) has been etiologically linked to increased incidence of autoimmunity, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that early repeated short-term cSiO2 exposure will modulate both latency and severity of autoimmunity in the lupus-prone female NZBWF1 mouse. Weekly intranasal exposure to cSiO2 (0.25 and 1.0 mg) for 4 wk beginning at 9 wk of age both reduced latency and increased intensity of glomerulonephritis. cSiO2 elicited robust inflammatory responses in the lungs as evidenced by extensive perivascular and peribronchial lymphoplasmacytic infiltration consisting of IgG-producing plasma cells, and CD45R+ and CD3+ lymphocytes that were highly suggestive of ectopic lymphoid tissue (ELT). In addition, there were elevated concentrations of immunoglobulins and the cytokines MCP-1, TNF-α and IL-6 in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. cSiO2-associated kidney and lung effects paralleled dose-dependent elevations of autoantibodies and proinflammatory cytokines in plasma. Taken together, cSiO2-induced pulmonary inflammation and ectopic lymphoid neogenesis in the NZBWF1 mouse corresponded closely to systemic inflammatory and autoimmune responses as well as the early initiation of pathological outcomes in the kidney. These findings suggest that following airway exposure to crystalline silica, in mice genetically prone to SLE, the lung serves as a platform for triggering systemic autoimmunity and glomerulonephritis.