Background: TiO2 particles are commonly used as dietary supplements and may contain up to 36% of nano-sized particles (TiO2-NPs). Still impact and translocation of NPs through the gut epithelium is poorly documented.
Results: We show that, in vivo and ex vivo, agglomerates of TiO2-NPs cross both the regular ileum epithelium and the follicle-associated epithelium (FAE) and alter the paracellular permeability of the ileum and colon epithelia. In vitro, they accumulate in M-cells and mucus-secreting cells, much less in enterocytes. They do not cause overt cytotoxicity or apoptosis. They translocate through a model of FAE only, but induce tight junctions remodeling in the regular ileum epithelium, which is a sign of integrity alteration and suggests paracellular passage of NPs. Finally we prove that TiO2-NPs do not dissolve when sequestered up to 24 h in gut cells.
Conclusions: Taken together these data prove that TiO2-NPs would possibly translocate through both the regular epithelium lining the ileum and through Peyer's patches, would induce epithelium impairment, and would persist in gut cells where they would possibly induce chronic damage.