[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fine particulate matter present in urban areas seems to be incriminated in respiratory disorders. The aim of this study was to relate physicochemical characteristics of PM2.5 (particulate matter collected with a 50% efficiency for particles with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 microm) to their biological activities toward a bronchial epithelial cell line 16-HBE. Two seasonal sampling campaigns of particles were realized, respectively, in a kerbside and an urban background station in Paris. Sampled-PM2.5 mainly consist of particles with a size below 1 microm and are mainly composed of soot as assessed by analytical scanning electron microscopy. The different PM2.5 samples contrasted in their PAH content, which was the highest in the kerbside station in winter, as well as in their metal content. Kerbside station samples were characterized by the highest Fe and Cu content, which appears correlated to their hydroxyl radical generating properties measured by electron paramagnetic resonance. Particles were compared by their capacity to induce cytotoxicity, intracellular ROS production, and proinflammatory cytokine release (GM-CSF and TNF-alpha). At a concentration of 10 microg/cm2, all samples induced peroxide production and cytokine release to the similar extent in the absence of cytotoxicity. In conclusion, whereas the PM2.5 samples differ by their PAH and metal composition, they induce the same biological responses likely either due to components bioavailability and/ or interactions between PM components.