© 2017 Elsevier B.V.Background Millions of workers are exposed to dust containing silica. Chronic and over-exposure to silica will lead to silicosis, which is an irreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease. The disordered physiological processes of silicosis consist of accumulation of silica particles in the alveoli of the lung. Then, the ingestion of the silica particles by macrophages was followed by an inflammatory response. Up till now, the chest radiographs remain the key tool in diagnosing and assessing the extent of silicosis. However, concerns exist regarding the sensitivity and specificity of the technique. Therefore, there is still a need to develop a biomarker for silicosis for early detection of silicosis. Method In this study, RNA-Seq was applied to detect the gene expression changes when silica was exposed to macrophages at different time intervals. RNA-Seq provides a broader dynamic range, increased specificity and sensitivity, and easier detection of rare and low-abundance transcripts. Bioinformatics tools such as the Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) and Gene Functional Classification Tool and Search Tool for the Retrieval of Interacting Genes (STRING) were applied for data analysis. Quantitative PCR was used to validate the results. Results Our results showed that regulation of transcription factors was the dominant activated pathway in early exposure of silica to macrophages, followed by inflammatory responses which were the main mechanisms in silicosis. One of the findings was the upregulation of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) during silica exposure. When ATF3 expression was inhibited by siRNA, the production of cytokines IL-1? IL-6 and TNF was further increased. Conclusion This indicated that ATF3 may be a potential early diagnostic biomarker for silicosis and ATF3 acts as a repressor in inflammatory responses induced by silica.
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