Social status and susceptibility to wildfire smoke among outdoor-housed female rhesus monkeys: A natural experiment

Heng Bai, John P. Capitanio, Lisa A. Miller, Jane E. Clougherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Wildfire smoke (WFS) exposure is a growing threat to human health, and lower socioeconomic position (SEP) has been shown to increase pollution susceptibility. Studies of SEP-related susceptibility, however, are often compromised due to spatial confounding between lower-SEP and pollution. Here we examine outdoor-housed nonhuman primates, living in natural social hierarchy in a common location, born during years of high vs. low WFS, to examine the separate and combined effects of WFS and social rank, an analog to SEP, on lung and immune function. Methods: Twenty-one females were born during extreme WFS events in summer 2008; 22 were born in summer 2009, during low WFS. Pulmonary function and circulating cytokines were measured three years later, in adolescence. We estimated fine particulate (PM2.5) and ozone exposures during each animal's first 90 days and three years of age using regulatory data. Early-life social status was estimated using maternal rank at birth, as rank in females is relatively stable throughout life, and closely approximates mother's rank. We tested associations among WFS exposure, rank, and endpoints using linear regression and ANOVA. Results: Higher WFS exposure in infancy was, on average, associated with lower functional residual capacity (FRC), residual volume (RV), tissue compliance (Ct), and IL-8 secretion in adolescence. Higher social rank conferred significantly higher expiratory reserve volume (ERV) and functional residual capacity (FRC) solely among those born in the high-WFS year (2008). Differences in effects of rank between years were not significant after adjustment for multiple comparisons. Conclusions: Exposure to WFS in infancy generally conferred lower adolescent respiratory volumes and inflammatory cytokines. Higher rank conferred higher respiratory volumes only among females born during WFS, suggesting the possibility that the health benefits of rank may be more apparent under environmental challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere08333
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Cytokine response
  • Infancy exposure
  • Lung volume
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Wildfire smoke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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