Depleted uranium (DU) is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process and shares chemical properties with natural and enriched uranium. To investigate the toxic effects of environmental DU exposure on the immune system, we examined the influences of DU (in the form of uranyl nitrate) on viability and immune function as well as cytokine gene expression in murine peritoneal macrophages and splenic CD4+ T cells. Macrophages and CD4+ T cells were exposed to various concentrations of DU, and cell death via apoptosis and necrosis was analyzed using annexin-V/propidium iodide assay. DU cytotoxicity in both cell types was concentration dependent, with macrophage apoptosis and necrosis occurring within 24 hr at 100 microM DU exposure, whereas CD4+ T cells underwent cell death at 500 microM DU exposure. Noncytotoxic concentrations for macrophages and CD4+ T cells were determined as 50 and 100 microM, respectively. Lymphoproliferation analysis indicated that macrophage accessory cell function was altered with 200 microM DU after exposure times as short as 2 hr. Microarray and real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction analyses revealed that DU alters gene expression patterns in both cell types. The most differentially expressed genes were related to signal transduction, such as c-jun, NF- kappa Bp65, neurotrophic factors (e.g., Mdk), chemokine and chemokine receptors (e.g., TECK/CCL25), and interleukins such as IL-10 and IL-5, indicating a possible involvement of DU in cancer development, autoimmune diseases, and T helper 2 polarization of T cells. The results are a first step in identifying molecular targets for the toxicity of DU and the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms for the immune modulation ability of DU.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/terry_schultz/24/