Smoking tobacco and burning smoky coal elicit similar gene expression patterns
A study, funded in part by NIEHS, showed that nonsmoking women in rural China who burned smoky, or bituminous, coal for heating and cooking exhibited certain gene expression patterns similar to those of active cigarette smokers. These results shed new light on the molecular mechanisms associated with smoky coal exposure, and may eventually lead to the development of clinical biomarkers that could help detect or assess the risk of lung cancer in people exposed to smoky coal.
The high rate of lung cancer in some rural counties in China has been linked to burning smoky coal. To better understand the molecular changes associated with exposure, the researchers conducted gene-expression profiling of cheek cells acquired from healthy, nonsmoking females in China, 26 of whom burned smoky coal and nine who used smokeless anthracite coal.
The researchers identified 282 genes that expressed differently in women exposed to smoky coal, compared to the smokeless coal. These gene expression changes correlated with household levels of fine particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Some of the gene expression changes observed in the women exposed to smoky coal were similar to those found in cigarette smokers, suggesting that tobacco smoke and smoky coal exposure elicit a similar molecular response in the cells of the airway.
Citation: Wang TW, Vermeulen RC, Hu W, Liu G, Xiao X, Alekseyev Y, Xu J, Reiss B, Steiling K, Downward GS, Silverman DT, Wei F, Wu G, Li J, Lenburg ME, Rothman N, Spira A, Lan Q. 2015. Gene-expression profiling of buccal epithelium among non-smoking women exposed to household air pollution from smoky coal. Carcinogenesis. 36(12):1494-1501.