In vitro detection of in vitro secondary mechanisms of genotoxicity induced by engineered nanomaterials


Abstract BACKGROUND: It is well established that toxicological evaluation of engineered nanomaterials (NMs) is vital to ensure the health and safety of those exposed to them. Further, there is a distinct need for the development of advanced physiologically relevant in vitro techniques for NM hazard prediction due to the limited predictive power of current in vitro models and the unsustainability of conducting nano-safety evaluations in vivo. Thus, the purpose of this study was to develop alternative in vitro approaches to assess the potential of NMs to induce genotoxicity by secondary mechanisms.

RESULTS: This was first undertaken by a conditioned media-based technique, whereby cell culture media was transferred from differentiated THP-1 (dTHP-1) macrophages treated with γ-Fe2O3 or Fe3O4 superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) to the bronchial cell line 16HBE14o-. Secondly construction and SPION treatment of a co-culture model comprising of 16HBE14o- cells and dTHP-1 macrophages. For both of these approaches no cytotoxicity was detected and chromosomal damage was evaluated by the in vitro micronucleus assay. Genotoxicity assessment was also performed using 16HBE14o- monocultures, which demonstrated only γ-Fe2O3 nanoparticles to be capable of inducing chromosomal damage. In contrast, immune cell conditioned media and dual cell co-culture SPION treatments showed both SPION types to be genotoxic to 16HBE14o- cells due to secondary genotoxicity promoted by SPION-immune cell interaction.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of the present study demonstrate that the approach of using single in vitro cell test systems precludes the ability to consider secondary genotoxic mechanisms. Consequently, the use of multi-cell type models is preferable as they better mimic the in vivo environment and thus offer the potential to enhance understanding and detection of a wider breadth of potential damage induced by NMs.


open access article


Nanoparticles, Nano(geno)toxicology, Secondary genotoxicity, Immune cells, In vitro models, Conditioned media, Co-culture models


Evans, S.J., Clift, M.J.D., Singh, N., Wills, J.W., Hondow, N., Wilkinson, T.S., Burgum, M.J., Brown, A.P., Jenkins, G.J., Doak, S.H. (2019) In vitro detection of in vitro secondary mechanisms of genotoxicity induced by engineered nanomaterials. Particle and Fibre Toxicology,16(8).


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research
Leicester Institute for Pharmaceutical Innovation - From Molecules to Practice (LIPI)