NADPH Oxidase-Dependent NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation and its Important Role in Lung Fibrosis by Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes

Small. 2015 May 6;11(17):2087-97. doi: 10.1002/smll.201402859. Epub 2015 Jan 12.


The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the key role of NADPH oxidase in NLRP3 inflammasome activation and generation of pulmonary fibrosis by multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). Although it is known that oxidative stress plays a role in pulmonary fibrosis by single-walled CNTs, the role of specific sources of reactive oxygen species, including NADPH oxidase, in inflammasome activation remains to be clarified. In this study, three long aspect ratio (LAR) materials (MWCNTs, single-walled carbon nanotubes, and silver nanowires) are used to compare with spherical carbon black and silver nanoparticles for their ability to trigger oxygen burst activity and NLRP3 assembly. All LAR materials but not spherical nanoparticles induce robust NADPH oxidase activation and respiratory burst activity in THP-1 cells, which are blunted in p22(phox) -deficient cells. The NADPH oxidase is directly involved in lysosomal damage by LAR materials, as demonstrated by decreased cathepsin B release and IL-1β production in p22(phox) -deficient cells. Reduced respiratory burst activity and inflammasome activation are also observed in bone marrow-derived macrophages from p47(phox) -deficient mice. Moreover, p47(phox) -deficient mice have reduced IL-1β production and lung collagen deposition in response to MWCNTs. Lung fibrosis is also suppressed by N-acetyl-cysteine in wild-type animals exposed to MWCNTs.

Keywords: NADPH oxidase; NLRP3 inflammasome; long aspect ratio nanomaterials; lung fibrosis; oxidative stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cathepsin B / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cytochrome b Group / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • NADPH Oxidase 1
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Respiratory Burst
  • Silver / chemistry


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytochrome b Group
  • Inflammasomes
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • NLRP3 protein, human
  • Nanotubes, Carbon
  • Nlrp3 protein, mouse
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Silver
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases
  • NADPH Oxidase 1
  • NADPH Oxidases
  • NOX1 protein, human
  • CYBA protein, human
  • Cyba protein, mouse
  • neutrophil cytosolic factor 1
  • Cathepsin B
  • Oxygen