Exposure to Airborne PM2.5 Water-Soluble Inorganic Ions Induces a Wide Array of Reproductive Toxicity

Jushan Zhang, Haoxiang Cheng, Yujie Zhu, Shuanshuan Xie, Xiaowen Shao, Changhui Wang, Sookja Kim Chung, Zhongyang Zhang, Ke Hao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Water-soluble inorganic ions (WSIIs, primarily NH4+, SO42-, and NO3-) are major components in ambient PM2.5, but their reproductive toxicity remains largely unknown. An animal study was conducted where parental mice were exposed to PM2.5 WSIIs or clean air during preconception and the gestational period. After delivery, all maternal and offspring mice lived in a clean air environment. We assessed reproductive organs, gestation outcome, birth weight, and growth trajectory of the offspring mice. In parallel, we collected birth weight and placenta transcriptome data from 150 mother-infant pairs from the Rhode Island Child Health Study. We found that PM2.5 WSIIs induced a broad range of adverse reproductive outcomes in mice. PM2.5 NH4+, SO42-, and NO3- exposure reduced ovary weight by 24.22% (p = 0.005), 14.45% (p = 0.048), and 16.64% (p = 0.022) relative to the clean air controls. PM2.5 SO42- exposure reduced the weight of testicle by 5.24% (p = 0.025); further, mice in the PM2.5 SO42- exposure group had 1.81 (p = 0.027) fewer offspring than the control group. PM2.5 NH4+, SO42-, and NO3- exposure all led to lower birth than controls. In mice, 557 placenta genes were perturbed by exposure. Integrative analysis of mouse and human data suggested hypoxia response in placenta as an etiological mechanism underlying PM2.5 WSII exposure’s reproductive toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4092-4103
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 5 Mar 2024


  • air pollution
  • fetus development restriction
  • hypoxia response
  • placenta gene expression
  • preconception and gestational exposure


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