Traffic-Related Air Pollution, Blood Pressure, and Adaptive Response of Mitochondrial Abundance

Jia Zhong, Akin Cayir, Letizia Trevisi, Marco Sanchez-Guerra, Xinyi Lin, Cheng Peng, Marie Abèle Bind, Diddier Prada, Hannah Laue, Kasey J.M. Brennan, Alexandra Dereix, David Sparrow, Pantel Vokonas, Joel Schwartz, Andrea A. Baccarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Exposure to black carbon (BC), a tracer of vehicular-traffic pollution, is associated with increased blood pressure (BP). Identifying biological factors that attenuate BC effects on BP can inform prevention. We evaluated the role of mitochondrial abundance, an adaptive mechanism compensating for cellular-redox imbalance, in the BC-BP relationship. Methods and Results-At ≥ 1 visits among 675 older men from the Normative Aging Study (observations=1252), we assessed daily BP and ambient BC levels from a stationary monitor. To determine blood mitochondrial abundance, we used whole blood to analyze mitochondrial-to-nuclear DNA ratio (mtDNA/nDNA) using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Every standard deviation increase in the 28-day BC moving average was associated with 1.97 mm Hg (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.23-2.72; P<0.0001) and 3.46 mm Hg (95% CI, 2.06-4.87; P<0.0001) higher diastolic and systolic BP, respectively. Positive BC-BP associations existed throughout all time windows. BC moving averages (5-day to 28-day) were associated with increased mtDNA/nDNA; every standard deviation increase in 28-day BC moving average was associated with 0.12 standard deviation (95% CI, 0.03-0.20; P=0.007) higher mtDNA/nDNA. High mtDNA/nDNA significantly attenuated the BC-systolic BP association throughout all time windows. The estimated effect of 28-day BC moving average on systolic BP was 1.95-fold larger for individuals at the lowest mtDNA/nDNA quartile midpoint (4.68 mm Hg; 95% CI, 3.03-6.33; P<0.0001), in comparison with the top quartile midpoint (2.40 mm Hg; 95% CI, 0.81-3.99; P=0.003). Conclusions-In older adults, short-term to moderate-term ambient BC levels were associated with increased BP and blood mitochondrial abundance. Our findings indicate that increased blood mitochondrial abundance is a compensatory response and attenuates the cardiac effects of BC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-387
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - 26 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Air pollution
  • Blood pressure
  • Mitochondria
  • Oxidative stress


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