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Key Event Title
Substance interaction with the lung resident cell membrane components
|Level of Biological Organization|
Key Event Components
|pattern recognition receptor signaling pathway||increased|
|toll-like receptor signaling pathway||Toll-like receptor||increased|
|toll-like receptor 4 signaling pathway||Toll-like receptor 4||increased|
Key Event Overview
AOPs Including This Key Event
|AOP Name||Role of event in AOP||Point of Contact||Author Status||OECD Status|
|Substance interaction with the pulmonary cell membrane leading to pulmonary fibrosis||MolecularInitiatingEvent||Cataia Ives (send email)||Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite||EAGMST Under Review|
|Interaction with lung cells leads to lung cancer||MolecularInitiatingEvent||Evgeniia Kazymova (send email)||Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite|
|Interaction with lung cells leading to atherosclerosis||MolecularInitiatingEvent||Arthur Author (send email)||Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite||Under Development|
Key Event Description
The human lung consists of approximately 40 different resident cell types that play different roles during homeostasis, injury, repair and disease states (Franks et al., 2008; Luettich et al., 2021). Of these, resident airway epithelial cells, alveolar/interstitial macrophages and dendritic cells are well characterised for their ability to sense the danger upon interaction with harmful substances and relay the message to mount the necessary immune/inflammatory response. The resident macrophages are present in all tissues, and in a steady state, macrophages contribute to epithelial integrity, survey the tissue for invading pathogens or chemicals and maintain an immunosuppressive environment. Their main function is to clear the incoming irritants and microbes. They are named differently based on the tissue type and their specific functions (Kierdorf et al., 2015).
The chemicals or pathogens interact with cellular membrane to gain access to the organisms’ interior. A predominant interaction mechanism involves the recognition of innate immune response agonists by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) present on resident cells such as epithelial and alveolar macrophages. PRRs are also present on other immune and parenchymal cells. PRRs can be activated by two classes of ligands. Pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) are microbial molecules derived from invading pathogens. PAMPs will not be discussed further as pathogens are not the focus for the AOP presented here. The other class of ligands are called danger associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) that include cellular fragments, nucleic acids, small molecules, proteins and even cytokines released from injured or dying cells (Bianchi, 2007). Most fibrogenic stressors discussed in this AOP act via DAMPs-driven PRR activation. High aspect ratio (HAR) materials such as asbestos or carbon nanotubes (CNTs) pierce the cellular membrane of epithelial cells or resident macrophages resulting in cell injury or non-programmed cellular death. Alveolar macrophages trying to engulf HAR fibres that are long and stiff undergo frustrated phagocytosis because of their inability to engulf the piercing fibres and subsequently lead to cell injury (Boyles et al., 2015; Brown et al., 2007; Donaldson K et al., 2010; Dörger et al., 2001; Mossman and Churg, 1998). The cellular debris from injured or dying cell then serves as ligands for PRRs (Nakayama, 2018), leading to cell activation. In case of pro-fibrotic insoluble particles such as silica, coal dust and nanomaterials (NMs), the particle adsorbed opsonins such as, immunoglobulins, complement proteins, or serum proteins act as ligands to the receptors on the macrophage cell surface (Behzadi et al., 2017). The tissue response to these materials resembles that observed following foreign body invasion in lungs.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are highly conserved PRRs that are associated with fibrogenic stressors (Desai et al., 2018). Inhibition of TLR-4 is protective against bleomycin-induced fibrosis (Li et al., 2015). However, the exact role and mechanisms by which TLRs mediate lung fibrosis are yet to be uncovered and some studies have shown TLRs to be protective against lung fibrosis (Desai et al., 2018). Asbestos and silica crystals are suggested to engage scavenger receptors present on the macrophages. Mice deficient in class A scavenger Macrophage receptor with collagenous structure (MARCO) are shown to induce reduced fibrogenic response following chrysotile asbestos exposure; although, the direct binding of MARCO by asbestos is not investigated in the study (Murthy et al., 2015). In case of soluble substances such as bleomycin, paraquat (Dinis-Oliveira et al., 2008) (N,N'-dimethyl-4, 4′-bipyridinium dichloride) and other soluble fibrogenic chemicals, direct damage of lung epithelial cells and resulting cellular debris or secreted cytokines (DAMPs) serve as triggers for downstream cascading pro-inflammatory events, tissue injury and fibrosis. Engagement of PRRs and consequent cell activation is observed in various organisms including flies and mammals (Denholm and Phan, 1990; Matzinger, 2002).
How It Is Measured or Detected
Detection of DAMPs or homeostasis-altering molecular processes:
Cellular interaction with substances or particles can be measured by assessing the release of DAMPs from stressed, injured or dying cells - indicative of binding of PRRs on the cell surface. Release of DAMPs is reflective of substance interaction with resident cells and their activation, a key step in the process of inflammation.
The release of DAMPs can be measured by the techniques listed in the published literature (Nikota et al., 2017; Rabolli et al., 2014; Suwara et al., 2014).
Targeted Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) (routinely used and recommended):
ELISA – permits quantitative measurement of antigens in biological samples. For example, in a cytokine ELISA (sandwich ELISA), an antibody (capture antibody) specific to a cytokine is immobilised on microtitre wells (96-well, 386-well, etc.). Experimental samples or samples containing a known amount of the specific recombinant cytokine are then reacted with the immobilised antibody. Following removal of unbound antibody by thorough washing, plates are reacted with the secondary antibody (detection antibody) that is conjugated to an enzyme such as horseradish peroxidase, which when bound, will form a sandwich with the capture antibody and the cytokine (Amsen and De Visser, 2009). The secondary antibody can be conjugated to biotin, which is then detected by addition of streptavidin linked to horseradish peroxidase. A chromogenic substrate can also be added, which is the most commonly used method. Chromogenic substrate is chemically converted by the enzyme coupled to the detection antibody, resulting in colour change. The amount of colour detected is directly proportional to the amount of cytokine in the sample that is bound to the capture antibody. The results are read using a spectrophotometer and compared to the levels of cytokine in control samples where cytokine is not expected to be secreted or to the samples containing known recombinant cytokine levels.
Interleukin (IL)-1α and -1β is activated or secreted into the cytosol following stimulus (Di Paolo and Shayakhmetov, 2016). Targeted ELISA can be used to quantify IL-1α or IL-1β that is released in the culture supernatant of the cells exposed to toxicants, in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and serum of exposed animals. The assay is also applicable to human serum, cerebrospinal fluid, and peritoneal fluids.
Similarly, other alarmins can also be quantified by ELISA. Western blot is another method that can be used to quantify the release of various alarmins using specific antibodies. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) or ELISA assays can also be used to quantify expression of genes or proteins that are regulated by the receptor binding – e.g. downstream of TLR binding.
Frustrated phagocytosis and cellular uptake of NMs:
In vitro, interaction of NMs with the cellular membrane is investigated by assessing their uptake by lysosomes (Chen et al., 2013; Nel et al., 2009; Varela et al., 2012). Immunohistochemistry methods targeting lysosome specific proteins are regularly employed for this purpose. In co-localisation experiments, lysosomal marker Lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1 (LAMP1) antibody is used to detect particle co-localisation with lysosomes. A combination of Cytoviva hyperspectral microscope and immunolocalisation (Decan et al., 2016) or confocal microscopy to visualise co-localisation of fluorescence labelled nanoparticles with lysosomal markers have been used.
Frustrated phagocytosis is assessed using microscopic techniques such as, time-lapse microscopy, backscatter electron microscopy and others (Donaldson et al., 2010; Murphy et al., 2012; Padmore et al., 2017; Pascolo et al., 2013; Schinwald et al., 2012). In addition, MIE 1668 of AOP303 notes other indirect methods for measuring frustrated phagocytosis.
Cellular co-culture models of the pulmonary epithelium:
Complex co-culture systems, such as those containing epithelial cells and immune cells, better model the environment of the lung epithelium and can be used to study the interaction of potentially pro-fibrotic fibres and particles with resident lung cells. This type of model has been used, alongside electron microscopy, to study lung cell interactions with CNTs following 24 Hr in vitro exposure (Clift et al., 2014). More recently, the EpiAlveolar model, which contains primary human alveolar epithelial cells, endothelial cells, as well as fibroblasts was assessed for its ability to predict fibrosis induced by CNTs (Barasova et al., 2020). Using laser scanning, fluorescence, and enhanced darkfield microscopy, CNT interaction with the resident cells of the model was shown, and this interaction induced the formation of holes in the epithelial model (Barasova et al., 2020). While new co-culture models are a better recapitulation of the native lung environment as compared to traditional mono-cultures, the increased complexity necessitates enhanced expertise in tissue culture techniques, and can make them less practical as compared to submerged mono culture methods.
Ex vivo model of the lung – Precision cut lung slices (PCLS):
Even closer to the in vivo condition than co-culture models, PCLS techniques capture the native lung architecture, cell-cell communication and cellularity of the lung. Advancement in culturing and cryopreservation techniques has increased accessibility and use of PCLS for longer term studies (Bai et al., 2016, Neuhaus et al., 2017). These slices can be cultured ex vivo for up to a week with minimal reduction in viability, and the technique has recently been assessed for its applicability to assess nanomaterial induced fibrosis ex vivo (Rahman et al., 2020). Using multi-walled carbon nanotubes and darkfield microscopy, interaction between the nanofibers and the lung epithelium could be determined. The main downside of this technique is the animal requirement, which precludes their use in a first-pass screening context for the MIE.
Domain of Applicability
Human, mouse, rat.
Although the expression of DAMPs following exposure to pro-fibrotic substances is not assessed across species, it is known that alarmins are released after trauma or injury, and their release is important for initiating the inflammatory response in all species including humans. The immediate acute inflammatory response involving DAMP signalling is also observed in human idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF); however, anti-inflammatory drugs have proven ineffective for treating IPF. Danger signalling axis including uric acid, adenosine triphosphate and IL-33/ST2 has been proven to promote lung fibrosis in animals.
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