Scientific reports

Inhibition of endocytic lipid antigen presentation by common lipophilic environmental pollutants.

PMID 28522830


Environmental pollutants as non-heritable factors are now recognized as triggers for multiple human inflammatory diseases involving T cells. We postulated that lipid antigen presentation mediated by cluster of differentiation 1 (CD1) proteins for T cell activation is susceptible to lipophilic environmental pollutants. To test this notion, we determined whether the common lipophilic pollutants benzo[a]pyrene and diesel exhaust particles impact on the activation of lipid-specific T cells. Our results demonstrated that the expression of CD1a and CD1d proteins, and the activation of CD1a- and CD1d-restricted T cells were sensitively inhibited by benzo[a]pyrene even at the low concentrations detectable in exposed human populations. Similarly, diesel exhaust particles showed a marginal inhibitory effect. Using transcriptomic profiling, we discovered that the gene expression for regulating endocytic and lipid metabolic pathways was perturbed by benzo[a]pyrene. Imaging flow cytometry also showed that CD1a and CD1d proteins were retained in early and late endosomal compartments, respectively, supporting an impaired endocytic lipid antigen presentation for T cell activation upon benzo[a]pyrene exposure. This work conceptually demonstrates that lipid antigen presentation for T cell activation is inhibited by lipophilic pollutants through profound interference with gene expression and endocytic function, likely further disrupting regulatory cytokine secretion and ultimately exacerbating inflammatory diseases.