BACKGROUND : Associations between urban (outdoor) airborne particulate matter (PM) exposure and TB and potential biological mechanisms are poorly explored. OBJECTIVE : To examine whether in vivo exposure to urban outdoor PM in Mexico City and in vitro exposure to urban outdoor PM2.5 (< 2.5 µm median aerodynamic diameter) alters human host immune cell responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. METHODS : Cellular toxicity (flow cytometry, proliferation assay (MTS assay)), M. tuberculosis and PM2.5 phagocytosis (microscopy), cytokine-producing cells (Enzyme-linked immune absorbent spot (ELISPOT)), and signalling pathway markers (western blot) were examined in bronchoalveolar cells (BAC) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from healthy, non-smoking, residents of Mexico City (n=35; 13 female, 22 male). In vivo-acquired PM burden in alveolar macrophages (AM) was measured by digital image analysis. RESULTS : In vitro exposure of AM to PM2.5 did not affect M. tuberculosis phagocytosis. High in vivo-acquired AM PM burden reduced constitutive, M. tuberculosis and PM-induced interleukin-1β production in freshly isolated BAC but not in autologous PBMC while it reduced constitutive production of tumour necrosis factor-alpha in both BAC and PBMC. Further, PM burden was positively correlated with constitutive, PM, M. tuberculosis and purified protein derivative (PPD)-induced interferon gamma (IFN-γ) in BAC, and negatively correlated with PPD-induced IFN-γ in PBMC. CONCLUSIONS : Inhalation exposure to urban air pollution PM impairs important components of the protective human lung and systemic immune response against M. tuberculosis. PM load in AM is correlated with altered M. tuberculosis-induced cytokine production in the lung and systemic compartments. Chronic PM exposure with high constitutive expression of proinflammatory cytokines results in relative cellular unresponsiveness.