The cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of soluble and particulate cobalt in human lung fibroblast cells

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2014 Aug 1;278(3):259-65. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2014.05.002. Epub 2014 May 11.


Cobalt exposure is increasing as cobalt demand rises worldwide due to its use in enhancing rechargeable battery efficiency, super-alloys, and magnetic products. Cobalt is considered a possible human carcinogen with the lung being a primary target. However, few studies have considered cobalt-induced toxicity in human lung cells. Therefore, in this study, we sought to determine the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of particulate and soluble cobalt in human lung cells. Cobalt oxide and cobalt chloride were used as representative particulate and soluble cobalt compounds, respectively. Exposure to both particulate and soluble cobalt induced a concentration-dependent increase in cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, and intracellular cobalt ion levels. Based on intracellular cobalt ion levels, we found that soluble cobalt was more cytotoxic than particulate cobalt while particulate and soluble cobalt induced similar levels of genotoxicity. However, soluble cobalt induced cell cycle arrest indicated by the lack of metaphases at much lower intracellular cobalt concentrations compared to cobalt oxide. Accordingly, we investigated the role of particle internalization in cobalt oxide-induced toxicity and found that particle-cell contact was necessary to induce cytotoxicity and genotoxicity after cobalt exposure. These data indicate that cobalt compounds are cytotoxic and genotoxic to human lung fibroblasts, and solubility plays a key role in cobalt-induced lung toxicity.

Keywords: Cobalt; Cobalt chloride; Cobalt oxide; Cytotoxicity; Genotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / analysis
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / chemistry
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / metabolism
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / toxicity*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Clone Cells
  • Cobalt / analysis
  • Cobalt / chemistry
  • Cobalt / metabolism
  • Cobalt / toxicity*
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lung / chemistry
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Mutagens / analysis
  • Mutagens / chemistry
  • Mutagens / metabolism
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Oxides / analysis
  • Oxides / chemistry
  • Oxides / metabolism
  • Oxides / toxicity
  • Particle Size
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Solubility


  • Carcinogens, Environmental
  • Mutagens
  • Oxides
  • Cobalt
  • cobaltous chloride
  • cobalt oxide