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J Toxicol Sci. 2019;44(1):35-45. doi: 10.2131/jts.44.35.

Dermal exposure to nano-TiO2 induced cardiovascular toxicity through oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis.

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Laboratory of Environmental Biomedicine, Hubei Key Laboratory of Genetic Regulation and Integrative Biology, School of Life Sciences, Central China Normal University, China.


Due to its excellent properties such as ultraviolet obscuration, chemical stability and small particle size, nano-titanium dioxide (nano-TiO2) is widely used, particularly in sunblock products. The skin is therefore a chief route for exposure. Studies have found that oral or respiratory exposure to nano-TiO2 has an adverse impact on the cardiovascular system. The relationship between dermal exposure to nano-TiO2 and cardiovascular system toxicity, particularly the causative mechanisms, remain unclear. In this study, we used Balb/c mice to evaluate cardiovascular toxicity from nano-TiO2 dermal exposure, and the underlying mechanisms associated with the human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were explored. Our results showed that nano-TiO2 treatment resulted in an obvious increase in reactive oxygen species and 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine, indicating the appearance of oxidative stress. Moreover, the levels of inflammatory biomarkers, such as immunoglobulin E, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1, interleukin-8, and hypersensitive C-reactive protein, also increased. Exposing HUVECs to nano-TiO2 led to a decline in cell vitality, and an increase in caspase-3 levels, suggesting that nano-TiO2 exposure caused cytotoxicity and even cell apoptosis. Interestingly, neutralizing oxidative stress by administering Vitamin E was shown to reduce the inflammatory response and cytotoxicity. Our findings suggest that nano-TiO2 can injure the cardiovascular system via dermal exposure, and does this via oxidative stress-induced inflammation and cytotoxicity. Vitamin E treatment may be a strategy to mitigate the damage.


Apoptosis; Cardiovascular toxicity; Cytotoxicity; Inflammation; Nano-titanium dioxide (nano-TiO2); Oxidative stress

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