Background: Vehicle exhaust emissions are known to be significant contributors to physical and psychological stress. Vehicle exhaust-induced stress and associated respiratory and cardiovascular complications are well-known, but the impact of this stress on the brain is unclear. Simulated vehicle exhaust exposure (SVEE) in rats causes behavioral and cognitive deficits. In the present study, the underlying mechanisms were examined. Our postulation is that SVEE, a simulation of physiologically relevant concentrations of pro-oxidants (0.04% carbon dioxide, 0.9 ppm nitrogen dioxide, 3 ppm carbon monoxide) creates a toxic stress environment in the brain that results in an imbalance between production of reactive oxygen species and the counteracting antioxidant mechanisms. This impairs mitochondrial function in the high bioenergetic demand areas of the brain including the hippocampus (HIP), amygdala (AMY) and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), disrupting neuronal network, and causing behavioral deficits. Mitochondria-targeted antioxidant Mito-Q protects against these impairments. Methods: Sprague Dawley rats were provided with Mito-Q (250 μM) in drinking water for 4 weeks followed by SVEE 5 h/day for 2 weeks, followed by behavioral and biochemical assessments. Results: SVEE resulted in anxiety- and depression-like behavior, accompanied with increased oxidative stress, diminished antioxidant response and mitochondrial impairment reflected from electron transport chain (ETC) disruption, reduced oxygen consumption, low adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) synthesis and an alteration in the mitochondrial biochemical dynamics assessed via protein expression profiles of mitochondrial fission marker, dynamin-related protein-1 and fusion markers, mitofusin-1/2 in the HIP, AMY and the PFC. Mito-Q treatment prevented SVEE-induced behavioral deficits, attenuated rise in oxidative stress and also prevented SVEE-induced mitochondrial impairment. Conclusion: This study demonstrates a causal mechanism mediating SVEE-induced behavioral deficits in rats. We further established that SVEE is a toxicological stressor that induces oxidative stress and results in mitochondrial impairment, which by disrupting neural circuitry impairs cognitive and behavioral functions.
Salvi, A., Liu, H., & Salim, S. (2020). Involvement of oxidative stress and mitochondrial mechanisms in air pollution-related neurobiological impairments. Neurobiology of Stress, 12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ynstr.2019.100205