Metal Oxide Nanoparticles Induce Unique Inflammatory Footprints in the Lung: Important Implications for Nanoparticle Testing

Wan-Seob Cho, Rodger Duffin, Craig A. Poland, Sarah E. M. Howie, William MacNee, Mark Bradley, Ian L. Megson, Ken Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Metal oxide nanoparticles (NPs) have been widely used in industry, cosmetics, and biomedicine.

OBJECTIVES: We examined hazards of several well-characterized high production volume NPs because of increasing concern about occupational exposure via inhalation.

METHODS: A panel of well-characterized NPs [cerium oxide (CeO2NP), titanium dioxide (TiO2NP), carbon black (CBNP), silicon dioxide (SiO2NP), nickel oxide (NiONP), zinc oxide (ZnONP), copper oxide (CuONP), and amine-modified polystyrene beads] was instilled into lungs of rats. We evaluated the inflammation potencies of these NPs 24 hr and 4 weeks post-instillation. For NPs that caused significant inflammation at 24 hr, we then investigated the characteristics of the inflammation. All exposures were carried out at equal-surface-area doses.

RESULTS: Only CeO2NP, NiONP, ZnONP, and CuONP were inflammogenic to the lungs of rats at the high doses used. Strikingly, each of these induced a unique inflammatory footprint both acutely (24 hr) and chronically (4 weeks). Acutely, patterns of neutrophil and eosinophil infiltrates differed after CeO2NP, NiONP, ZnONP, and CuONP treatment. Chronic inflammatory responses also differed after 4 weeks, with neutrophilic, neutrophilic/lymphocytic, eosinophilic/fibrotic/granulomatous, and fibrotic/granulomatous inflammation being caused respectively by CeO2NP, NiONP, ZnONP, and CuONP.

CONCLUSION: Different types of inflammation imply different hazards in terms of pathology, risks, and risk severity. In vitro testing could not have differentiated these complex hazard outcomes, and this has important implications for the global strategy for NP hazard assessment. Our results demonstrate that NPs cannot be viewed as a single hazard entity and that risk assessment should be performed separately and with caution for different NPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1699-1706
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number12
Early online date20 Aug 2010
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • eosinophilic inflammation
  • intratracheal instillation
  • in vitro assay
  • in vivo assay
  • lymphocytic inflammation
  • metal oxide nanoparticles
  • neutrophilic inflammation
  • risk assessment
  • surface area dose
  • Wistar rat
  • RATS


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