Background: The induction of cytokines by airway cells in vitro has been widely used to assess the effects of ambient and occupational particles. This study measured cytotoxicity and the release of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-8 by human bronchial epithelial cells treated with manufactured nano- and micron-sized particles of Al2O3, CeO2, Fe2O3, NiO, SiO2, and TiO2, with soil-derived particles from fugitive dust sources, and with the positive controls LPS, TNF-alpha, and VOSO4.
Results: The nano-sized particles were not consistently more potent than an equal mass of micron-sized particles of the same nominal composition for the induction of IL-6 and IL-8 secretion in the in vitro models used in this study. The manufactured pure oxides were much less potent than natural PM2.5 particles derived from soil dust, and the cells were highly responsive to the positive controls. The nano-sized particles in the media caused artifacts in the measurement of IL-6 by ELISA due to adsorption of the cytokine on the high-surface-area particles. The potency for inducing IL-6 secretion by BEAS-2B cells did not correlate with the generation of reactive oxygen species in cell-free media.
Conclusion: Direct comparisons of manufactured metal oxide nanoparticles and previously studied types of particles and surrogate proinflammatory agonists showed that the metal oxide particles have low potency to induce IL-6 secretion in BEAS-2B cells. Particle artifacts from non-biological effects need to be considered in experiments of this type, and the limitations inherent in cell culture studies must be considered when interpreting in vitro results. This study suggests that manufactured metal oxide nanoparticles are not highly toxic to lung cells compared to environmental particles.