Induction of inflammation in vascular endothelial cells by metal oxide nanoparticles: Effect of particle composition

Andrea Gojova, Bing Guo, Rama S. Kota, John C Rutledge, Ian M. Kennedy, Abdul I. Barakat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

408 Scopus citations


Background: The mechanisms governing the correlation between exposure to ultrafine particles and the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease remain unknown. Ultrafine particles appear to cross the pulmonary epithelial barrier into the bloodstream, raising the possibility of direct contact with the vascular endothelium. Objectives: Because endothelial inflammation is critical for the development of cardiovascular pathology, we hypothesized that direct exposure of human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs) to ultrafine particles induces an inflammatory response and that this response depends on particle composition. Methods: To test the hypothesis, we incubated HAECs for 1-8 hr with different concentrations (0.001-50 μg/mL) of iron oxide (Fe2O3), yttrium oxide (Y2O3), and zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles and subsequently measured mRNA and protein levels of the three inflammatory markers intracellular cell adhesion molecule-1, interleukin-8, and monocyte chemotactic protein-1. We also determined nanoparticle interactions with HAECs using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and transmission electron microscopy. Results: Our data indicate that nanoparticle delivery to the HAEC surface and uptake within the cells correlate directly with particle concentration in the cell culture medium. All three types of nanoparticles are internalized into HAECs and are often found within intracellular vesicles, Fe2O3 nanoparticles fail to provoke an inflammatory response in HAECs at any of the concentrations tested; however, Y2O3 and ZnO nanoparticles elicit a pronounced inflammatory response above a threshold concentration of 10 μg/mL. At the highest concentration, ZnO nanoparticles are cytotoxic and lead to considerable cell death. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that inflammation in HAECs following acute exposure to metal oxide nanoparticles depends on particle composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-409
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Air pollution
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Endothelial cells
  • Inflammation
  • Nanoparticles
  • Particulate matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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