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J Biol Chem. 2011 Aug 26;286(34):29725-33. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.251884. Epub 2011 Jun 24.

Pulmonary biocompatibility assessment of inhaled single-wall and multiwall carbon nanotubes in BALB/c mice.

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Center for Biotechnology and Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biology, Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Virginia 23504, USA.


With the widespread application of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in diverse commercial processes, scientists are now concerned about the potential health risk of occupational exposures. In this study, CNT-induced pulmonary toxicity was investigated by exposing BALB/c mice to aerosolized single-wall (SW) CNT and multiwall (MW) CNT (5 μg/g of mice) for 7 consecutive days in a nose-only exposure system. Microscopic studies showed that inhaled CNTs were homogeneously distributed in the mouse lung. The total number of bronchoalveolar lavage polymorphonuclear leukocytes recovered from the mice exposed to SWCNT and MWCNT (1.2 × 10(6) ± 0.52 and 9.87 × 10(5) ± 1.45; respectively) was significantly greater than control mice (5.46 × 10(5) ± 0.78). Rapid development of pulmonary fibrosis in mice that inhaled CNT was also confirmed by significant increases in the collagen level. The lactate dehydrogenase levels were increased nearly 2- and 2.4-fold in mice that inhaled SWCNT and MWCNT, respectively, as compared with control mice. In addition, exposure of CNTs to mice showed a significant (p < 0.05) reduction of antioxidants (glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase) and induction of oxidants (myloperoxidase, oxidative stress, and lipid peroxidation) compared with control. Apoptosis-related proteins such as caspase-3 and -8 activities were also significantly increased in mice that inhaled CNT than in control mice. Together, this study shows that inhaled CNTs induce inflammation, fibrosis, alteration of oxidant and antioxidant levels, and induction of apoptosis-related proteins in the lung tissues to trigger cell death.

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