Inhalation of ozone (O3) and/or nitrogen dioxide (.NO2) is associated with the development of inflammation in the respiratory tract and various alterations in pulmonary functions. Respiratory tract lining fluids (RTLFs) represent the first biological fluids coming into contact with these inhaled toxicants. Using plasma as a surrogate for RTLFs, we have previously shown that O3 [Cross, Motchnik, Bruener, Jones, Kaur, Ames and Halliwell (1992) FEBS Lett. 298, 269-272] and .NO2 [Halliwell, Hu, Louie, Duvall, Tarkington, Motchnik and Cross (1992) FEBS Lett. 313, 62-66] are both capable of depleting antioxidants and damaging proteins and lipids. O3 particularly damages proteins, whereas .NO2 induces the peroxidation of lipids and nitrates aromatic amino acids. It has been reported that O3 and .NO2 cause synergistic toxicity in rodents [Gielzleichter, Witschi and Last (1992) Tox. Appl. Pharmacol. 116, 1-9]. In the present chapter, we review evidence showing that combined exposure of these two oxidant gases to human plasma fails to exert synergistic oxidative damage to plasma constituents, and in fact, O3 and .NO2 antagonize each other's actions. We conclude that the potentiating effect of these two gases on morbidity and mortality in rodents represents a complex interactive biological effect rather than a simple synergistic oxidative effect in extracellular fluids.

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