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Arch Toxicol. 2014 Aug;88(8):1607-18. doi: 10.1007/s00204-014-1210-1. Epub 2014 Feb 14.

Magnetite- and maghemite-induced different toxicity in murine alveolar macrophage cells.

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Department of Molecular Science and Technology, Ajou University, Suwon, 443-749, Korea,


The unique properties of nanoparticles and biological systems are important factors affecting the biological response following nanoparticle exposure. Iron oxide nanoparticles are classified mainly as magnetite (M-FeNPs) and maghemite (NM-FeNPs). In our previous study, NM-FeNPs induced autophagic cell death in RAW264.7, a murine peritoneal macrophage cell line, which has excellent lysosomal activity. In this study, we compared the toxicity of M-FeNPs and NM-FeNPs in MH-S, a murine alveolar macrophage cell line, which has relatively low lysosomal activity. At 24 h post-exposure, M-FeNPs decreased cell viability and ATP production, and elevated the levels of reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide, and pro-inflammatory cytokines to a higher extent than NM-FeNPs. Damage of mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum and the down-regulation of mitochondrial function and transcription-related genes were also higher in cells exposed to M-FeNPs than in cells exposed to NM-FeNPs (50 μg/ml). In addition, cells exposed to M-FeNPs (50 μg/ml) showed an increase in the number of autophagosome-like vacuoles, whereas cells exposed to NM-FeNPs formed large vacuoles in the cytosol. However, an autophagy-related molecular response was not induced by exposure to either FeNPs, unlike the results seen in our previous study with RAW264.7 cells. We suggest that M-FeNPs induced higher toxicity compared to NM-FeNPs in MH-S cells, and lysosomal activity plays an important role in determining cell death pathway.

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