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

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2016 May;57(4):282-7. doi: 10.1002/em.22009. Epub 2016 Apr 4.


Cobalt is a toxic metal used in various industrial applications leading to adverse lung effects by inhalation. 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, especially normal lung epithelial cells. Therefore, in this study, we sought to determine the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of particulate and soluble cobalt in normal primary human lung epithelial 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 and particulate cobalt induced similar cytotoxicity while soluble cobalt was more genotoxic than particulate cobalt. These data indicate that cobalt compounds are cytotoxic and genotoxic to human lung epithelial cells.

Keywords: cobalt; cobalt oxide; cytotoxicity; genotoxicity; normal human lung epithelial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Chromosome Aberrations / chemically induced
  • Cobalt / toxicity*
  • Cytotoxins / toxicity*
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lung / cytology*
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mutagens / toxicity*
  • Oxides / toxicity*
  • Particle Size
  • Solubility


  • Cytotoxins
  • Mutagens
  • Oxides
  • Cobalt
  • cobaltous chloride
  • cobalt oxide