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J Mol Neurosci. 2012 Oct;48(2):464-71. Epub 2012 Apr 15.

Demonstration of an olfactory bulb-brain translocation pathway for ZnO nanoparticles in rodent cells in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Microbiology, Soochow University, Shihlin, Shilin District, Taipei 111, Taiwan.


ZnO nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs) are widely used in the engineering and cosmetic industries, and inhaled airborne particles pose a known hazard to human health; their translocation into humans is a recognized public health concern. The pulmonary-blood pathway for ZnO-NP toxicity is well documented, but whether translocation of these particles can also occur via an olfactory bulb-brain route remains unclear. The potential toxicity of ZnO-NPs for the human central nervous system (CNS) is predicated on the possibility of their translocation. Our study investigated translocation of ZnO-NPs both in vitro using the neuronal cell line PC12 and in vivo in a Sprague-Dawley rat model. Our findings indicate that the zinc-binding dye, Newport-Green DCF, binds ZnO stoichiometrically and that ZnO-NP concentration can therefore be measured by the fluorescence intensity of the bound dye in confocal fluorescence microscopy. Confocal data obtained using Newport-Green DCF-2 K(+)-conjugated ZnO-NPs along with the membrane probe FM1-43 demonstrated endocytosis of ZnO-NPs by PC12 cells. In addition, Fluozin-3 measurement showed elevation of cytosolic Zn(2+) concentration in these cells. Following in vivo nasal exposure of rats to airborne ZnO-NPs, olfactory bulbs and brains that were examined by Newport-Green fluorescence and TEM particle measurement clearly showed the presence of ZnO-NPs in brain. We conclude that an olfactory bulb-brain translocation pathway for airborne ZnO-NPs exists in rats, and that endocytosis is required for interneuron translocation of these particles.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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