Urban air pollution targets the dorsal vagal complex and dark chocolate offers neuroprotection

Rafael Villarreal-Calderon, Ricardo Torres-Jardón, Juan Palacios-Moreno, Norma Osnaya, Beatriz Pérez-Guillé, Robert R. Maronpot, William Reed, Hongtu Zhu, Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Mexico City (MC) residents exposed to fine particulate matter and endotoxin exhibit inflammation of the olfactory bulb, substantia nigra, and vagus nerve. The goal of this study was to model these endpoints in mice and examine the neuroprotective effects of chocolate. Mice exposed to MC air received no treatment or oral dark chocolate and were compared to clean-air mice either untreated or treated intraperitoneally with endotoxin. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β), and CD14 messenger RNA (mRNA) were quantified after 4, 8, and 16 months of exposure in target brain regions. After 16 months of exposure, the dorsal vagal complex (DVC) exhibited significant inflammation in endotoxin-treated and MC mice (COX-2 and IL-1β P <.001). Mexico City mice had olfactory bulb upregulation of CD14 (P =.002) and significant DVC imbalance in genes for antioxidant defenses, apoptosis, and neurodegeneration. These findings demonstrate sustained DVC inflammation in mice exposed to MC air, which is mitigated by chocolate administration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604-615
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Toxicology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Parkinson disease risk
  • cyclooxygenase-2
  • dorsal vagal complex
  • endotoxins
  • inteleukin-1
  • neuroinflammation
  • olfactory bulb
  • urban pollution


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