Air pollution is well recognized as a central player in cardiovascular disease. Exhaust particulate from diesel engines (DEP) is rich in nanoparticles and may contribute to the health effects of particulate matter in the environment. Moreover, diesel soot emitted by modern engines denotes defective surfaces alongside chemically-reactive sites increasing soot cytotoxicity. We recently demonstrated that engineered nanoparticles can cross the air/blood barrier and are capable to reach the heart. We hypothesize that DEP nanoparticles are pro-arrhythmogenic by direct interaction with cardiac cells. We evaluated the internalization kinetics and the effects of DEP, collected from Euro III (DEPe3, in the absence of Diesel Particulate Filter, DPF) and Euro IV (DEPe4, in the presence of DPF) engines, on alveolar and cardiac cell lines and on in situ rat hearts following DEP tracheal instillation. We observed significant differences in DEP size, metal and organic compositions derived from both engines. DEPe4 comprised ultrafine particles (<100 nm) and denoted a more pronounced toxicological outcome compared to DEPe3. In cardiomyocytes, particle internalization is fastened for DEPe4 compared to DEPe3. The in-vivo epicardial recording shows significant alteration of EGs parameters in both groups. However, the DEPe4-instilled group showed, compared to DEPe3, a significant increment of the effective refractory period, cardiac conduction velocity, and likelihood of arrhythmic events, with a significant increment of membrane lipid peroxidation but no increment in inflammation biomarkers. Our data suggest that DEPe4, possibly due to ultrafine nanoparticles, is rapidly internalized by cardiomyocytes resulting in an acute susceptibility to cardiac electrical disorder and arrhythmias that could accrue from cellular toxicity. Since the postulated transfer of nanoparticles from the lung to myocardial cells has not been investigated it remains open whether the effects on the cardiovascular function are the result of lung inflammatory reactions or due to particles that have reached the heart.
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