Nowadays, aerosol processes are widely used for the manufacture of nanoparticles (NPs), creating an increased occupational exposure risk of workers, laboratory personnel and scientists to airborne particles. There is evidence that possible adverse effects are linked with the accumulation of NPs in target cells, pointing out the importance of understanding the kinetics of particle internalization. In this context, the uptake kinetics of representative airborne NPs over 30 min and their internalization after 24 h post-exposure were investigated by the use of a recently established exposure system. This system combines the production of aerosolized cerium oxide (CeO(2)) NPs by flame spray synthesis with its simultaneous particle deposition from the gas-phase onto A549 lung cells, cultivated at the air-liquid interface. Particle uptake was quantified by mass spectrometry after several exposure times (0, 5, 10, 20 and 30 min). Over 35% of the deposited mass was found internalized after 10 min exposure, a value that increased to 60% after 30 min exposure. Following an additional 24 h post-incubation, a time span, after which adverse biological effects were observed in previous experiments, over 80% of total CeO(2) could be detected intracellularly. On the ultrastructural level, focal cerium aggregates were present on the apical surface of A549 cells and could also be localized intracellularly in vesicular structures. The uptake behaviour of aerosolized CeO(2) is in line with observations on cerium suspensions, where particle mass transport was identified as the rate-limiting factor for NP internalization.
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