Abstract Bushfires are increasing in frequency and severity worldwide. Bushfire smoke contains organic/inorganic compounds including aldehydes and acrolein. We described suppressive effects of tobacco smoke on the phagocytic capacity of airway macrophages, linked to secondary necrosis of uncleared apoptotic epithelial cells, persistence of non-typeable H. influenzae (NTHi), and inflammation. We hypothesised that bushfire smoke extract (BFSE) would similarly impair macrophage function. THP-1 or monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) were exposed to 1–10% BFSE prepared from foliage of 5 common Australian native plants (genus Acacia or Eucalyptus), or 10% cigarette smoke extract (CSE). Phagocytic recognition receptors were measured by flow cytometry; pro-inflammatory cytokines and caspase 1 by immunofluorescence or cytometric bead array; viability by LDH assay; and capsase-3/PARP by western blot. BFSE significantly decreased phagocytosis of apoptotic cells or NTHi by both THP-1 macrophages and MDM vs air control, consistent with the effects of CSE. BFSE significantly decreased MDM expression of CD36, CD44, SR-A1, CD206 and TLR-2 and increased active IL-1β, caspase-1 and secreted IL-8. BFSE dose-dependently decreased THP-1 macrophage viability (5-fold increase in LDH at 10%) and significantly increased active caspase-3. BFSE impairs macrophage function to a similar extent as CSE, highlighting the need for further research, especially in patients with pre-existing lung disease
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