Brain inflammation and Alzheimer's-like pathology in individuals exposed to severe air pollution

Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, William Reed, Robert R. Maronpot, Carlos Henríquez-Roldán, Ricardo Delgado-Chavez, Ana Calderón-Garcidueñas, Irma Dragustinovis, Maricela Franco-Lira, Mariana Aragón-Flores, Anna C. Solt, Michael Altenburg, Ricardo Torres-Jardón, James A. Swenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

475 Scopus citations


Air pollution is a complex mixture of gases (e.g., ozone), particulate matter, and organic compounds present in outdoor and indoor air. Dogs exposed to severe air pollution exhibit chronic inflammation and acceleration of Alzheimer's-like pathology, suggesting that the brain is adversely affected by pollutants. We investigated whether residency in cities with high levels of air pollution is associated with human brain inflammation. Expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2), an inflammatory mediator, and accumulation of the 42-amino acid form of β-amyloid (Aβ42), a cause of neuronal dysfunction, were measured in autopsy brain tissues of cognitively and neurologically intact lifelong residents of cities having low (n:9) or high (n:10) levels of air pollution. Genomic DNA apurinic/apyrimidinic sites, nuclear factor-κB activation and apolipoprotein E genotype were also evaluated. Residents of cities with severe air pollution had significantly higher COX2 expression in frontal cortex and hippocampus and greater neuronal and astrocytic accumulation of Aβ42 compared to residents in low air pollution cities. Increased COX2 expression and Aβ42 accumulation were also observed in the olfactory bulb. These findings suggest that exposure to severe air pollution is associated with brain inflammation and Aβ42 accumulation, two causes of neuronal dysfunction that precede the appearance of neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650-658
Number of pages9
JournalToxicologic Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Air pollution
  • Brain
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Inflammation
  • Mexico City
  • Neuropathology
  • β-amyloid


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