Implication of oxidative stress in size-dependent toxicity of silica nanoparticles in kidney cells

Passagne I, Morille M, Rousset M, Pujalte I, L’Azou B. Implication of oxidative stress in size-dependent toxicity of silica nanoparticles in kidney cells. Toxicology 2012, 299(2–3):112–124.


Silica nanoparticles (nano-SiO2) are one of the most popular nanomaterials used in industrial manufacturing, synthesis, engineering and medicine. While inhalation of nanoparticles causes pulmonary damage, nano-SiO2 can be transported into the blood and deposit in target organs where they exert potential toxic effects. Kidney is considered as such a secondary target organ. However, toxicological information of their effect on renal cells and the mechanisms involved remain sparse. In the present study, the cytotoxicity of nano-SiO2 of different sizes was investigated on two renal proximal tubular cell lines (human HK-2 and porcine LLC-PK1). The molecular pathways involved were studied with a focus on the involvement of oxidative stress. Nanoparticle characterization was performed (primary nanoparticle size, surface area, dispersion) in order to investigate a potential relationship between their physical properties and their toxic effects. Firstly, evidence of particle internalization was obtained by transmission electron microscopy and conventional flux cytometry techniques. The use of specific inhibitors of endocytosis pathways showed an internalization process by macropinocytosis and clathrin-mediated endocytosis for 100 nm nano-SiO2 nanoparticles. These nanoparticles were localized in vesicles. Toxicity was size- and time-dependent (24 h, 48 h, 72 h). Indeed, it increased as nanoparticles became smaller. Secondly, analysis of oxidative stress based on the assessment of ROS (reactive oxygen species) production (DHE, dihydroethidium) or lipid peroxidation (MDA, malondialdehyde) clearly demonstrated the involvement of oxidative stress in the toxicity of 20 nm nano-SiO2. The induction of antioxidant enzymes (catalase, GSTpi, thioredoxin reductase) could explain their lesser toxicity with 100 nm nano-SiO2.