Benzalkonium chloride (BKC) is a prototypical quaternary ammonium disinfectant. Previously, we suggested a no lethal dose level (0.005%) and an LD50 range (0.5–0.05%) of BKC following a single pharyngeal aspiration. Herein, we exposed BKC repeatedly by pharyngeal aspiration for 14 days (0.005 and 0.01%, female mice, total five times with interval of two days, 5 mice/group) and 28 days (0, 0.001, 0.005, and 0.01%, male and female mice, weekly, 16 mice/sex/group). Death following 14 days-repeated exposure did not occur. Meanwhile, chronic pathological lesions were observed in the lung tissues of mice exposed to BKC for 28 days. The total number of bronchial alveolar lavage cells increased, and pulmonary homeostasis of immunologic messenger molecules was disturbed. Following, we investigated BKC-induced cellular responses using human bronchial epithelial cells. The cytotoxicity increased rapidly with concentration. Lysosomal volume, NO production, and lipid peroxidation increased in BKC-treated cells, whereas intracellular ROS level decreased accompanying structural and functional damage of mitochondria. We also found that BKC affected the expression level of immune response, DNA damage, and amino acid biosynthesis-related molecules. More interestingly, lamellar body- and autophagosome-like structures were notably observed in cells exposed to BKC, and necrotic and apoptotic cell death were identified accompanying cell accumulation in the G2/M phase. Therefore, we suggest that repeated respiratory exposure of BKC causes pulmonary inflammation and lung tissue damage and that dead and damaged cells may contribute to the inflammatory response. In addition, the formation process of lamellar body-like structures may function as a key toxicity mechanism.
- Benzalkonium chloride
- Lamellar body-like structures
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