Journal Article

Benzo[a]pyrene at an environmentally relevant dose is slowly absorbed by, and extensively metabolized in, tracheal epithelium.

P Gerde, B A Muggenburg, J R Thornton-Manning, J L Lewis, K H Pyon and A R Dahl

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 18, issue 9, pages 1825-1832
Published in print January 1997 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online January 1997 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Benzo[a]pyrene at an environmentally relevant dose is slowly absorbed by, and extensively metabolized in, tracheal epithelium.

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While tobacco smoke has been conclusively identified as a lung carcinogen, there is much debate over which smoke constituent(s) are primarily responsible for its carcinogenicity. Previous studies in our laboratory suggested that highly lipophilic carcinogens are slowly absorbed in the thicker epithelium of the conducting airways, potentially allowing for substantial local metabolism. The bioactivation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in airway epithelium may, hence, be important in tobacco smoke-induced carcinogenesis. In the present study, the hypothesis of slow absorption and substantial local metabolic activation of highly lipophilic carcinogen in airway epithelium was tested in dogs. A single dose of tritiated benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) dissolved in a saline/phospholipid suspension was instilled in the trachea, just anterior to the carina. At intervals of a few minutes up to 30 min over a 3-h period, blood samples were drawn from the azygous vein, which drains the area around the point of instillation, and from the systemic circulation. Tissue samples were taken at the end of the experiment. The concentration of BaP with depth into the tracheal mucosa was determined with autoradiography. BaP was slowly absorbed into the trachea with a half-time of approximately 73 min, which is consistent with diffusion-limited passage through the epithelium and lead to local doses in the tracheal epithelium that were more than a 1000-fold those of other tissues. The long retention of BaP in the epithelium provided the local metabolizing enzymes with high substrate levels over a long period, resulting in extensive metabolism. At 3 h after the exposure, 23% of the BaP-equivalent activity remained in the tracheal mucosa. Of this fraction, 13% was parent compound, 28% was organic extractable, 31% was water-soluble, and 28-7% of the instilled dose was bound to tracheal tissues. These results explain the tendency of highly lipophilic carcinogens, such as BaP, to induce tumors at the site of entry and, furthermore, indicate that the highly lipophilic components of tobacco smoke and polluted air may be the most important contributors to lung tumors of the conducting airways.

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Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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