Titanium dioxide nanoparticles temporarily influence the sea urchin immunological state suppressing inflammatory-relate gene transcription and boosting antioxidant metabolic activity

J Hazard Mater. 2020 Feb 15;384:121389. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2019.121389. Epub 2019 Oct 5.


Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2NPs) are revolutionizing biomedicine due to their potential application as diagnostic and therapeutic agents. However, the TiO2NP immune-compatibility remains an open issue, even for ethical reasons. In this work, we investigated the immunomodulatory effects of TiO2NPs in an emergent proxy to human non-mammalian model for in vitro basic and translational immunology: the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. To highlight on the new insights into the evolutionarily conserved intracellular signaling and metabolism pathways involved in immune-TiO2NP recognition/interaction we applied a wide-ranging approach, including electron microscopy, biochemistry, transcriptomics and metabolomics. Findings highlight that TiO2NPs interact with immune cells suppressing the expression of genes encoding for proteins involved in immune response and apoptosis (e.g. NF-κB, FGFR2, JUN, MAPK14, FAS, VEGFR, Casp8), and boosting the immune cell antioxidant metabolic activity (e.g. pentose phosphate, cysteine-methionine, glycine-serine metabolism pathways). TiO2NP uptake was circumscribed to phagosomes/phagolysosomes, depicting harmless vesicular internalization. Our findings underlined that under TiO2NP-exposure sea urchin innate immune system is able to control inflammatory signaling, excite antioxidant metabolic activity and acquire immunological tolerance, providing a new level of understanding of the TiO2NP immune-compatibility that could be useful for the development in Nano medicines.

Keywords: Homeostasis restoring; Human gene networks; Innate immunity; Metabolic rewiring; TiO(2)NP-responsive genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / immunology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects*
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Paracentrotus / cytology
  • Paracentrotus / drug effects*
  • Paracentrotus / immunology
  • Paracentrotus / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Titanium / toxicity*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Antioxidants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • titanium dioxide
  • Titanium