Chronic exposure to carbon nanotubes induces invasion of human mesothelial cells through matrix metalloproteinase-2

ACS Nano. 2013 Sep 24;7(9):7711-23. doi: 10.1021/nn402241b. Epub 2013 Aug 12.


Malignant mesothelioma is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer known. Recent studies have shown that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are biopersistent and induce mesothelioma in animals, but the underlying mechanisms are not known. Here, we investigate the effect of long-term exposure to high aspect ratio CNTs on the aggressive behaviors of human pleural mesothelial cells, the primary cellular target of human lung mesothelioma. We show that chronic exposure (4 months) to single- and multiwalled CNTs induced proliferation, migration, and invasion of the cells similar to that observed in asbestos-exposed cells. An up-regulation of several key genes known to be important in cell invasion, notably matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), was observed in the exposed mesothelial cells as determined by real-time PCR. Western blot and enzyme activity assays confirmed the increased expression and activity of MMP-2. Whole genome microarray analysis further indicated the importance of MMP-2 in the invasion gene signaling network of the exposed cells. Knockdown of MMP-2 in CNT and asbestos-exposed cells by shRNA-mediated gene silencing effectively inhibited the aggressive phenotypes. This study demonstrates CNT-induced cell invasion and indicates the role of MMP-2 in the process.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism*
  • Mesothelioma / chemically induced*
  • Mesothelioma / pathology*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / toxicity*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness


  • Nanotubes, Carbon
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2