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Int J Nanomedicine. 2011;6:2791-8. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S25588. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

A role of cellular glutathione in the differential effects of iron oxide nanoparticles on antigen-specific T cell cytokine expression.

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  • 1Department and Graduate Institute of Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.



Accumulating evidence indicates that iron oxide nanoparticles modulate immune responses, and induce oxidative stress in macrophages. It was recently reported that iron oxide nanoparticles attenuated antigen-specific immunity in vivo, though the underlying mechanism remains elusive. The present study investigates the direct effect of iron oxide nanoparticles on antigen-specific cytokine expression by T cells, and potential underlying mechanisms.


Ovalbumin-primed splenocytes were exposed to iron oxide nanoparticles, followed by restimulation with ovalbumin. Cell viability, cytokine production, and cellular levels of glutathione and reactive oxygen species were measured.


The splenocyte viability and the production of interleukin-2 and interleukin-4 were unaffected, whereas interferon-γ production was markedly attenuated by iron oxide nanoparticles (10-100 μg iron/mL) in a concentration-dependent manner. Iron oxide nanoparticles also transiently diminished the intracellular level of glutathione, with a peak response at 6 hours posttreatment. The effects of iron oxide nanoparticles on interferon-γ and glutathione were attenuated by the presence of N-acetyl-L-cysteine, a precursor of glutathione. However, iron oxide nanoparticles did not influence the generation of reactive oxygen species.


Iron oxide nanoparticles induced a differential effect on antigen-specific cytokine expression by T cells, in which the T helper 1 cytokine IFN-γ was sensitive, whereas the T helper 2 cytokine interleukin-4 was refractory. In addition, the suppressive effect of iron oxide nanoparticles on interferon-γ was closely associated with the diminishment of glutathione.


T cell; antigen-specific; cytokine; glutathione; iron oxide nanoparticle

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