Three human cell types respond to multi-walled carbon nanotubes and titanium dioxide nanobelts with cell-specific transcriptomic and proteomic expression patterns

Nanotoxicology. 2014 Aug;8(5):533-48. doi: 10.3109/17435390.2013.803624. Epub 2013 Jun 7.


The growing use of engineered nanoparticles (NPs) in commercial and medical applications raises the urgent need for tools that can predict NP toxicity. Global transcriptome and proteome analyses were conducted on three human cell types, exposed to two high aspect ratio NP types, to identify patterns of expression that might indicate high versus low NP toxicity. Three cell types representing the most common routes of human exposure to NPs, including macrophage-like (THP-1), small airway epithelial and intestinal (Caco-2/HT29-MTX) cells, were exposed to TiO2 nanobelts (TiO2-NB; high toxicity) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT; low toxicity) at low (10 µg/mL) and high (100 µg/mL) concentrations for 1 and 24 h. Unique patterns of gene and protein expressions were identified for each cell type, with no differentially expressed (p < 0.05, 1.5-fold change) genes or proteins overlapping across all three cell types. While unique to each cell type, the early response was primarily independent of NP type, showing similar expression patterns in response to both TiO2-NB and MWCNT. The early response might, therefore, indicate a general response to insult. In contrast, the 24 h response was unique to each NP type. The most significantly (p < 0.05) enriched biological processes in THP-1 cells indicated TiO2-NB regulation of pathways associated with inflammation, apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, DNA replication stress and genomic instability, while MWCNT-regulated pathways indicated increased cell proliferation, DNA repair and anti-apoptosis. These two distinct sets of biological pathways might, therefore, underlie cellular responses to high and low NP toxicity, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / drug effects
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / toxicity*
  • Proteome / analysis
  • Proteome / chemistry
  • Proteome / drug effects*
  • Titanium / chemistry
  • Titanium / toxicity*
  • Transcriptome / drug effects*


  • Nanotubes, Carbon
  • Proteome
  • titanium dioxide
  • Titanium