Benzene is a carcinogenic compound used in industrial manufacturing and a common environmental pollutant mostly derived from vehicle emissions and cigarette smoke. Benzene exposure is associated with a variety of clinical conditions ranging from hematologic diseases to chronic lung disorders. Beside its direct toxicity, benzene exerts multiple effects after being converted to reactive metabolites such as hydroquinone and benzoquinone. Mast cells and basophils are primary effector cells involved in the development of respiratory allergies such as rhinitis and bronchial asthma and they play an important role in innate immunity. Benzene and its metabolites can influence mast cell and basophil responses either directly or by interfering with other cells, such as T cells, macrophages and monocytes, which are functionally connected to mast cells and basophils. Hydroquinone and benzoquinone inhibit the release of preformed mediators, leukotriene synthesis and cytokine production in human basophils stimulated by IgE- and non IgE-mediated agonists. Furthermore, these metabolites reduce IgE-mediated degranulation of mast cells and the development of allergic lung inflammation in rats. Both in vitro and in vivo studies indicate that benzene metabolites alter biochemical and functional activities of other immunocompetent cells and may impair immune responses in the lung. These inhibitory effects of benzene metabolites are primarily mediated by interference with early transduction signals such as PI3 kinase. Together, currently available studies indicate that benzene metabolites interfere by multiple mechanisms with the role of basophils and mast cells in innate immunity and in chronic inflammation in the lung.
Keywords: Mast cells, basophils, benzene, hydroquinone, benzoquinone, histamine, cytokines, rhinitis, bronchial asthma, inflammation
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