Short-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution reveals a compound-specific circulating miRNA profile indicating multiple disease risks

Julian Krauskopf*, Karin van Veldhoven, Marc Chadeau-Hyam, Roel Vermeulen, Gloria Carrasco-Turigas, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Paolo Vineis, Theo M. de Kok, Jos C. Kleinjans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) is a complex mixture of compounds that contributes to the pathogenesis of many diseases including several types of cancer, pulmonary, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and more recently also diabetes mellitus. In search of an early diagnostic biomarker for improved environmental health risk assessment, recent human studies have shown that certain extracellular miRNAs are altered upon exposure to TRAP. Here, we present a global circulating miRNA analysis in a human population exposed to different levels of TRAP. The cross-over study, with sampling taking place during resting and physical activity in two different exposure scenarios, included for each subject personal exposure measurements of PM10,PM2.5, NO, NO2, CO, CO2, BC and UFP. Next-generation sequencing technology was used to identify global circulating miRNA levels across all subjects. We identified 8 miRNAs to be associated with the mixture of TRAP and 27 miRNAs that were associated with the individual pollutants NO, NO2, CO, CO2, BC and UFP. We did not find significant associations between miRNA levels and PM10, or PM2.5. Integrated network analysis revealed that these circulating miRNAs are potentially involved in processes that are implicated in the development of air pollution-induced diseases. Altogether, this study demonstrates that signatures consisting of circulating miRNAs present a potential novel biomarker to be used in health risk assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-200
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Diesel-exhaust
  • Air pollution
  • Biomarker
  • Environmental health
  • microRNAs

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