Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 89, Issue 5, pp 677–685 | Cite as

MicroRNAs as regulators of airborne pollution-induced lung inflammation and carcinogenesis

  • Jun Wei
  • Feng Li
  • Jiali Yang
  • Xiaoming Liu
  • William C. Cho
Review Article


The increasing incidence of pulmonary inflammation and lung cancer, as well as exacerbation of pre-existing chronic lung diseases by exposure to airborne pollutants, e.g., particulate matter and cigarette smoke, is becoming a major public health concern in the world. However, the exact mechanisms of pulmonary injury from exposure to these airborne insults have not been fully elucidated. Nevertheless, accumulating evidence suggests that microRNAs (miRNAs) may play a unique role in the regulation of airborne agent-induced lung inflammation and carcinogenesis. Since epigenetic modifications are heritable and reversible, this may provide a new insight into the relationship of miRNAs and environmental pollution-related lung disorders. The aim of this review was to update our existing knowledge regarding the mechanisms by which airborne pollutants altering miRNA profiles in the lung, specifically for cigarette smoke and airborne particulate matter, and the potential biological roles of miRNAs in the initiation of pulmonary inflammation and lung cancer, as well as the regulation of underlying genetic susceptibility to these environmental stressors.


Air pollution Epigenetic modification Lung cancer Lung inflammation MicroRNA 



This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 31172278 and 31472191 to XL).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center of Medical Research, General HospitalNingxia Medical UniversityYinchuanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Laboratory MedicineNingxia Medical UniversityYinchuanPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Education for Conservation and Utilization of Special Biological Resources in Western ChinaNingxia UniversityYinchuanPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Clinical OncologyQueen Elizabeth HospitalKowloonHong Kong

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