Uptake and inflammatory effects of nanoparticles in a human vascular endothelial cell line.

Ian M. Kennedy, Dennis W Wilson, Abdul I. Barakat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The mechanisms governing the correlation between exposure to nanoparticles and the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease remain unknown. Nanoparticles appear to cross the pulmonary epithelial barrier into the bloodstream, raising the possibility of direct contact with the vascular endothelium. Because endothelial inflammation is critical for the development of cardiovascular pathology, we hypothesized that direct exposure of human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs*) to nanoparticles induces an inflammatory response and that this response depends on the composition of the particles. To test this hypothesis, we incubated HAECs for 1 to 8 hours with different concentrations (0.001-50 microg/mL) of iron oxide (Fe2O3), yttrium oxide (Y2O3), cerium oxide (CeO2), and zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles. Using real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), we subsequently measured messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of three markers of inflammation: intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), interleukin-8 (IL-8), and monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1). The particles were well characterized in terms of size, surface area, composition, and crystal structure. To determine the interactions of nanoparticles with HAECs, we used inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to measure the concentration of internalized particles. Our data indicate that the delivery of nanoparticles to the HAEC surface and their uptake within the cells correlate directly with the concentration of particles in the cell culture medium. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed that the Fe2O3, Y2O3, and ZnO nanoparticles are internalized by HAECs and are often found within intracellular vesicles (the CeO2 particles were not imaged). Fe2O3 nanoparticles did not provoke an inflammatory response in HAECs at any of the concentrations tested, CeO2 particles elicited no response at low concentrations and a weak response above 10 microg/mL, and Y2O3 and ZnO nanoparticles elicited a pronounced inflammatory response above a threshold concentration of 10 microg/mL. We used fluorescent markers to identify the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cells; the results showed that Y2O3 and ZnO particles at the highest concentrations may lead to the production of ROS. At the highest concentration, ZnO nanoparticles caused significant loss of cell adherence. These results demonstrate that inflammation in HAECs after acute exposure to metal oxide nanoparticles depends on the concentration and composition of the particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-32
Number of pages30
JournalResearch report (Health Effects Institute)
Issue number136
StatePublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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