The toxicity of carbon nanotubes (CNTs), a highly promising nanomaterial, is similar to that of asbestos because both types of particles have a fibrous shape and are biopersistent. Here, we investigated the characteristics of macrophage receptor with collagenous structure (MARCO), a membrane receptor expressed on macrophages that recognizes environmental or unopsonized particles, and we assessed whether and how MARCO was involved in cellular uptake of multi-walled CNTs (MWCNTs). MARCO-transfected Chinese hamster ovary (CHO-K1) cells took up polystyrene beads irrespective of the particle size (20nm-1μm). In the culture of MARCO-transfected CHO-K1 cells dendritic structures were observed on the bottom of culture dishes, and the edges of these dendritic structures were continually renewed as the cell body migrated along the dendritic structures. MWCNTs were first tethered to the dendritic structures and then taken up by the cell body. MWCNTs appeared to be taken up via membrane ruffling like macropinocytosis, rather than phagocytosis. The cytotoxic EC(50) value of MWCNTs in MARCO-transfected CHO-K1 cells was calculated to be 6.1μg/mL and transmission electron microscopic observation indicated that the toxicity of MWCNTs may be due to the incomplete inclusion of MWCNTs by the membrane structure.
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