Occupational exposure to airborne low molecular weight chemicals, like trimellitic anhydride (TMA), can result in occupational asthma. Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are among the first cells to encounter these inhaled compounds and were previously shown to influence TMA-induced asthma-like symptoms in the Brown Norway rat. TMA is a hapten that will bind to endogenous proteins upon entrance of the body. Therefore, in the present study we determined if TMA and TMA conjugated to serum albumin induced the production of the macrophage mediators nitric oxide (NO), tumour necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin 6 (IL-6) in vitro using the rat AM cell line NR8383 and primary AMs derived from TMA-sensitized and naïve Brown Norway rats.
Cells were incubated with different concentrations of TMA, TMA conjugated to bovine serum albumin (BSA), and BSA as a control for 24 h and the culture supernatant was analyzed for mediator content.
TMA alone was not able to induce the production of mediators by NR8383 cells and primary AMs from sensitized and sham-treated rats. TMA-BSA, on the contrary, dose-dependently stimulated the production of NO, TNF, and IL-6 by NR8383 cells and of NO and TNF, but not IL-6, by primary AMs independent of sensitization.
Results suggest that although TMA is a highly reactive compound, conjugation to a suitable protein is necessary to induce mediator production by AMs. Furthermore, the observation that effects of TMA-BSA were independent of sensitization suggests involvement of an immunologically non-specific receptor. In the discussion it is argued that a macrophage scavenger receptor is a likely candidate.