Diesel exhaust particles inhibit lung branching morphogenesis via the YAP/TAZ pathway

Yu Ling Chung, Vincent Laiman, Po Nien Tsao, Chung Ming Chen, Didik Setyo Heriyanto, Kian Fan Chung, Kai Jen Chuang, Hsiao Chi Chuang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prenatal exposure to air pollution may associated with inhibition of lung development in the child, however the possible mechanism is unclear. We investigated the effects of traffic-related diesel exhaust particle (DEP) exposure on fetal lung branching morphogenesis and elucidate the possible mechanism. Ex vivo fetal lungs collected from ICR mice at an age of 11.5 embryonic (E) days were exposed to DEPs at 0 (control), 10, and 50 μg/mL and branching morphogenesis was measured for 3 days. Normal IMR-90 human fetal lung fibroblast cells were exposed to DEPs at 0 (control), 10, and 50 μg/mL for 24 h. We observed that DEP exposure significantly inhibited lung branching morphogenesis with reduced lung branching ratios and surface areas on day 3. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) showed that DEP increased the inflammatory response and impaired lung development-related gene expressions. DEPs significantly decreased Yes-associated protein (YAP), phosphorylated (p)-YAP, transcriptional coactivator with a PDZ-binding motif (TAZ), and p-TAZ in IMR-90 cells at 10 and 50 μg/mL. Treatment of fetal lungs with the YAP inhibitor, PFI-2, also demonstrated restricted lung branching development similar to that of DEP exposure, with a significantly decreased lung branching ratio on day 3. DEP exposure significantly decreased the lung branching modulators fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2), sex-determining region Y-box 2 (SOX2), and SOX9 in IMR-90 cells at 10 and 50 μg/mL. Fetal lung immunofluorescence staining showed that DEP decreased SOX2 expression in fibronectin+ fibroblasts. DEP exposure decreased the cellular senescence regulator, p-sirtuin 1 (SIRT1)/SIRT1 in IMR-90 cells, with RNA-Seq showing impaired telomere maintenance. DEP exposure impaired fetal lung growth during the pseudoglandular stage through dysregulating the Hippo signaling pathway, causing fibroblast lung branching restriction and early senescence. Prenatal exposure to traffic-related air pollution has adverse effects on fetal lung development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160682
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Air pollution
  • Branching morphogenesis
  • Fetal lung
  • Hippo signaling pathway
  • PM
  • Senescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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