The increasing use of nanotechnology in consumer products and medical applications underlies the importance of understanding its potential toxic effects to people and the environment. Although both fullerene and carbon nanotubes have been demonstrated to accumulate to cytotoxic levels within organs of various animal models and cell types and carbon nanomaterials have been exploited for cancer therapies, the molecular and cellular mechanisms for cytotoxicity of this class of nanomaterial are not yet fully apparent. To address this question, we have performed whole genome expression array analysis and high content image analysis based phenotypic measurements on human skin fibroblast cell populations exposed to multiwall carbon nano-onions (MWCNOs) and multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). Here we demonstrate that exposing cells to MWCNOs and MWCNTs at cytotoxic doses induces cell cycle arrest and increases apoptosis/necrosis. Expression array analysis indicates that multiple cellular pathways are perturbed after exposure to these nanomaterials at these doses, with material-specific toxigenomic profiles observed. Moreover, there are also distinct qualitative and quantitative differences in gene expression profiles, with each material at different dosage levels (6 and 0.6 microg/mL for MWCNO and 0.6 and 0.06 microg/mL for MWCNT). MWCNO and MWCNT exposure activates genes involved in cellular transport, metabolism, cell cycle regulation, and stress response. MWCNTs induce genes indicative of a strong immune and inflammatory response within skin fibroblasts, while MWCNO changes are concentrated in genes induced in response to external stimuli. Promoter analysis of the microarray results demonstrate that interferon and p38/ERK-MAPK cascades are critical pathway components in the induced signal transduction contributing to the more adverse effects observed upon exposure to MWCNTs as compared to MWCNOs.