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Review article: Biomedical intelligence

Vol. 142 No. 1718 (2012)

Air pollution and epigenetics: effects on SP-A and innate host defence in the lung

  • Patricia Silveyra
  • Joanna Floros
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2012;142:w13579


An appropriate immune and inflammatory response is key to defend against harmful agents present in the environment, such as pathogens, allergens and inhaled pollutants, including ozone and particulate matter. Air pollution is a serious public health concern worldwide, and cumulative evidence has revealed that air pollutants contribute to epigenetic variation in several genes, and this in turn can contribute to disease susceptibility. Several groups of experts have recently reviewed findings on epigenetics and air pollution [1–6]. Surfactant proteins play a central role in pulmonary host defence by mediating pathogen clearance, modulating allergic responses and facilitating the resolution of lung inflammation. Recent evidence indicates that surfactant proteins are subject to epigenetic regulation under hypoxia and other conditions. Oxidative stress caused by ozone, and exposure to particulate matter have been shown to affect the expression of surfactant protein A (SP-A), an important lung host defence molecule, as well as alter its functions. In this review, we discuss recent findings in the fields of epigenetics and air pollution effects on innate immunity, with the focus on SP-A, and the human SP-A variants in particular. Their function may be differentially affected by pollutants and specifically by ozone-induced oxidative stress, and this in turn may differentially affect susceptibility to lung disease.


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