In vitro models have become increasingly sophisticated, and their usefulness in supporting toxicity testing is well established. The present study was designed to establish a novel in vitro model that mimics the cellular network surrounding airways and pulmonary blood vessels, to study the cardiovascular toxic effects of particulate matter (PM). Transwell culture method was used to develop a novel tetra-culture system consisting of tri-cultures (one lung epithelial and two immune cell lines) in the apical chamber and endothelial cells in the basolateral chamber. Tri-cultures were exposed to standard reference material (SRM) 1648a, an urban PM. SRM 1648a did not show cytotoxic effects; however, it increased IL-6 level in apical and basolateral chambers. The cells in the basolateral chamber showed increased monocyte adhesion. Furthermore, exposure of tri-cultured cells to SRM 1648a in the apical chamber induced ICAM-1 expression in endothelial cells in the basolateral chamber by activating the IL-6/STAT3 pathway. In conclusion, a tetra-culture system was established to facilitate the identification of cellular adhesion molecule expression induced by the interaction between pulmonary epithelial and endothelial cells. The tetra-culture system will contribute to elucidation of the relationships between inhalable PM and cardiovascular diseases.
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