• Inorganic lead;
  • Toxic mechanisms;
  • Macrophage;
  • Cellular death;
  • DNA damage


Lead is a heavy metal of considerable environmental and occupational concern and there is growing evidence that it is toxic to the human immune system. In this regard, this study examined the effect of lead (Pb) exposure to peritoneal macrophages (Mφs) of mice (Mus musculus) cultivated in DMEM medium supplemented with fetal bovine serum, in order to investigate cell damage related to cell death. Cells were exposed to two concentrations of inorganic lead [Pb(II)] for 4, 24 and 72 h. Cell viability declined during the treatment, with responses including cell death, cellular damage and DNA damage. Cell death images were found in treated cells with an increase in Bax expression, but the inorganic lead failed to induce the loss of membrane asymmetry (Annexin V conjugates), suggesting that cell death was mainly due to necrosis induction. The effects of Pb(II) on the mechanisms of cell death is not completely understood, but the immunosuppression due to DNA damage and Mφs death is discussed here. We have previously shown the effect of inorganic lead in mitochondria and phagocytosis in Mφs, suggesting here a pathway for the effect of the metal on mechanisms of cell death, also discussing its effects on the immune system.