Urmila Kodavanti Receives 2022 SOT Leading Edge in Basic Science Award

By Ilona Jaspers posted 03-03-2022 14:29


Urmila Kodavanti, PhD, DABT, has received the 2022 SOT Leading Edge in Basic Science Award for her novel, rigorous, and impactful research on the scientific understanding of how irritant air pollutants adversely affect human health.

Dr. Kodavanti received her PhD in pesticide toxicology from Maharaja Sayajirao University in India in 1983. She then conducted postdoctoral training at Michigan State University, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), focusing in this final position on phosgene, ozone, and particulate matter toxicity in animal models. Dr. Kodavanti is currently a Senior Research Biologist in the US EPA Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment. She also is a Faculty Affiliate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At the leading edge of the toxicology field, Dr. Kodavanti’s research has provided not only a plausible new paradigm for multi-organ effects due to air pollutant exposure, but also a likely linkage of the effects among these organ systems. Dr. Kodavanti has delivered convincing, scientifically based evidence that this linkage involves metabolic and immune/inflammatory deregulation caused by pollutant-induced neuroendocrine stress. Chronic stress is well known to contribute to a variety of health conditions, including cardiovascular, diabetes, and aging. Dr. Kodavanti has now documented that short-term exposure to a prototypical pollutant, ozone, uses a similar stress response pathway involving the sympathetic adrenal medullary and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, and the release of stress hormones that initiate or modulate pulmonary and systemic inflammation as well as metabolic homeostatic changes in rodents and humans.

In addition to this work, Dr. Kodavanti is leading cutting-edge research efforts to elucidate how adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors are involved in homeostatic regulation of metabolic and immune processes, and how their dysregulation with air pollutant exposure might explain disease susceptibility. Her research also has provided new avenues to explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for systemic and organ-specific toxicology of ozone, particulate matter, and other criteria air pollutants. This will lead to more effective intervention strategies on a public and personal level to mitigate or prevent the devastating human health effects of increasing ambient air pollution generated by fossil fuel combustion, wildland fires, and climate change.

In addition to her research, Dr. Kodavanti is highly active in several editorial activities. She is a longtime Associate Editor for both Inhalation Toxicology and the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, as well as serving on the Editorial Boards of four additional journals, among them Toxicological Sciences.

Dr. Kodavanti is a highly awarded scientist. In addition to six US EPA Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards for her publications since 2016, she has received several awards for best paper from SOT Specialty Sections, including the 2021 Molecular and Systems Biology Specialty Section Paper of the Year Award and the 2020 Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section Paper of the Year Award. Dr. Kodavanti has been an SOT member since 2002 and is a Past President of the Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section, which recognized her with the Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section Career Achievement Award in 2020.

2022 SOT Leading Edge in Basic Science Award Lecture: Health Implications of Neuroendocrine Stress Responses to Air Pollutants: Resiliency vs. Disease

Tuesday, March 29, 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
San Diego Convention Center, Ballroom 6A

Dr. Kodavanti will deliver the 2022 SOT Leading Edge in Basic Science Award Lecture during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. The lecture abstract is as follows:

The autonomic nervous system serves to recognize stressors and rapidly and precisely direct local and peripheral biologic responses through hypothalamic neuroendocrine mechanisms. Although the importance of neuroendocrine stress responses in health and disease is well established, the implications of such changes in eliciting adverse health outcomes related to air pollutant exposures remain unclear. Our studies show that oxidant and irritant air pollutants in rats and humans produce local, peripheral, and central effects, including widespread, largely transient changes in metabolic and immunological processes. Key mediators include release of adrenal-derived catecholamines and glucocorticoids and activation of adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors across multiple organs. Using interventional strategies in animal models, we demonstrated organ-specific effects of air pollution exposure. Systemic release of adrenal-derived hormones is necessary to produce local lung injury/inflammation and brain effects. Moreover, the dynamicity of ozone-induced stress responses provides contextual evidence of causality for immune and metabolic effects. Our data suggest that resiliency, in terms of adaptation to repeated ozone exposure, is established in part through the glucocorticoid stress pathway and proteins that regulate glucocorticoid-receptor transcriptional activity. The importance of efficient and plastic stress responses is evident by animal models of psychosocial stress, insulin resistance/diabetes, and senescence. Collectively, our studies reveal that the neuroendocrine system is an integral contributor to the observed health effects of air pollutants and provide biological plausibility for the diverse systemic health outcomes. Such data are needed to better understand and address human resiliency vs. susceptibility variations to environmental exposures/stressors. This abstract does not reflect the US EPA policy.

#2016 SOT Awards