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Use of back-scatter electron signals to visualise cell/nanowires interactions in vitro and in vivo; frustrated phagocytosis of long fibres in macrophages and compartmentalisation in mesothelial cells in vivo

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Original languageEnglish
Article numberARTN 34
Number of pages13
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2012


Background: Frustrated phagocytosis has been stated as an important factor in the initiation of an inflammatory response after fibre exposure. The length of fibrous structures has been linked to the potential of fibres to induce adverse health effects for at least 40 years. However, we only recently reported for the first time the threshold length for fibre-induced inflammation in the pleural space and we implicated frustrated phagocytosis in the pro-inflammatory effects of long fibres. This study extends the examination of the threshold value for frustrated phagocytosis using well-defined length classes of silver nanowires (AgNW) ranging from 3-28 mu m and describes in detail the morphology of frustrated phagocytosis using a novel technique and also describes compartmentalisation of fibres in the pleural space.

Methods: A novel technique, backscatter scanning electron microscopy (BSE) was used to study frustrated phagocytosis since it provides high-contrast detection of nanowires, allowing clear discrimination between the nanofibres and other cellular features. A human monocyte-derived macrophage cell line THP-1 was used to investigate cell-nanowire interaction in vitro and the parietal pleura, the site of fibre retention after inhalation exposure was chosen to visualise the cell-fibre interaction in vivo after direct pleural installation of AgNWs.

Results: The length cut-off value for frustrated phagocytosis differs in vitro and in vivo. While in vitro frustrated phagocytosis could be observed with fibres >= 14 mu m, in vivo studies showed incomplete uptake at a fibre length of >= 10 mu m. Recently we showed that inflammation in the pleural space after intrapleural injection of the same nanofibre panel occurs at a length of >= 5 mu m. This onset of inflammation does not correlate with the onset of frustrated phagocytosis as shown in this study, leading to the conclusion that intermediate length fibres fully enclosed within macrophages as well as frustrated phagocytosis are associated with a pro-inflammatory state in the pleural space. We further showed that fibres compartmentalise in the mesothelial cells at the parietal pleura as well as in inflammatory cells in the pleural space.

Conclusion: BSE is a useful way to clearly distinguish between fibres that are, or are not, membrane-bounded. Using this method we were able to show differences in the threshold length at which frustrated phagocytosis occurred between in vitro and in vivo models. Visualising nanowires in the pleura demonstrated at least 2 compartments - in leukocyte aggregations and in the mesothelium - which may have consequences for long term pathology in the pleural space including mesothelioma.

    Research areas

  • Parietal pleura mesothelium, CARBON NANOTUBES, Backscatter scanning electron microscopy (BSE), ASBESTOS, PATHOGENICITY, PARIETAL PLEURA, INFLAMMATION, TOXICOLOGY, PULMONARY, Frustrated phagocytosis, INHALATION, Pleural macrophages, THP-1 macrophages, RETENTION, LENGTH

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