Altered functions of alveolar macrophages and NK cells involved in asbestos-related diseases

Yasumitsu Nishimura, Megumi Maeda, Naoko Kumagai-Takei, Suni Lee, Hidenori Matsuzaki, Yasuhiko Wada, Tamako Nishiike-Wada, Hiroshi Iguchi, Takemi Otsuki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Asbestos exposure causes asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma, disorders which remain difficult to cure. We focused on alveolar macrophages (AM) and natural killer (NK) cells in asbestosis and mesothelioma, respectively, and examined their functions upon exposure to asbestos or in patients with mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos caused rat AM to exhibit high production of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) with prolonged survival in the absence of other cells, not simultaneously with the apoptosis caused by asbestos. The NK cell line showed impaired cytotoxicity with altered expression of activating receptors upon exposure to asbestos, and primary NK cells in culture with asbestos and peripheral blood NK cells in mesothelioma shared a decrease in expression of NKp46, a representative activating receptor. The AM finding indicates that AM contribute to asbestosis by playing a direct role in the fibrogenic response, as well as the inflammatory response. The response of NK cells indicates that exposure to asbestos has an immune-suppressive effect, as well as a tumorigenic effect. Our studies therefore reveal novel effects of asbestos exposure on AM and tumor immunity, which may represent valuable information for construction of a strategy for prevention and cure of asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-204
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Health and Preventive Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • Alveolar macrophage
  • Asbestos
  • Asbestosis
  • Malignant mesothelioma
  • Natural killer cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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