Graphene oxide nano-bio interaction induces inhibition of spermatogenesis and disturbance of fatty acid metabolism in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans

Toxicology. 2018 Dec 1;410:83-95. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2018.09.006. Epub 2018 Sep 13.


Graphene oxide (GO) has the potential for wide applications, which necessitates an intensive investigation of its potential hazard on human and environmental health. Even if previous studies show reproductive toxicity in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the mechanisms of reproductive toxicity by GO are poorly understood. To understand the underlying mechanisms of GO-induced reproductive toxicity, we investigated the interaction between GO and C. elegans using Raman spectroscopy, sperm counts produced by spermatogenesis, progeny and analyzed the fatty acid metabolism using molecular techniques. GO-characteristic Raman spectral bands measured throughout C. elegans, brood size and Hoecst staining of dissected gonads clearly showed GO accumulation in the reproductive organs, reduced progeny and low sperm counts, which are possibly direct results of the reproductive toxicity from GO exposure. Interestingly, reduced fatty acid metabolites, such as stearic, oleic, palmitoleic, and palmitic acids, were found with GO exposure. We found that GO increased intestinal fat accumulation in wild type N2, fat-5(tm420), and fat-7(wa36) mutants, whereas it decreased fat storage in the fat-6(tm331) and nhr-49(nr2041) mutants. GO exposure affected C. elegans fat accumulation and consumption, which was possibly regulated by daf-16 and nhr-80 gene activity. Also, GO exposure suppressed the survival of long-lived fat-5(tm420) mutants, whereas it increased the survival of short-lived nhr-49(nr2041) mutants. Hence, our studies collectively indicated that GO accumulation in reproductive organs, suppression of spermatogenesis, and the alteration of fatty acid metabolism play critical roles in understanding mechanisms of toxicity in C. elegans.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; Fatty acid metabolism; Graphene oxide; Nano-bio interaction; Raman spectroscopy; Reproductive toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gonads / drug effects
  • Gonads / pathology
  • Graphite / toxicity*
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics
  • Longevity / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Sperm Count
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • graphene oxide
  • Graphite