Responses of human cells to ZnO nanoparticles: A gene transcription study

Philip J. Moos, Kyle Olszewski, Matthew Honeggar, Pamela Cassidy, Sancy Leachman, David Woessner, N. Shane Cutler, John M. Veranth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The gene transcript profile responses to metal oxide nanoparticles was studied using human cell lines derived from the colon and skin tumors. Much of the research on nanoparticle toxicology has focused on models of inhalation and intact skin exposure, and effects of ingestion exposure and application to diseased skin are relatively unknown. Powders of nominally nanosized SiO 2, TiO2, ZnO and Fe2O3 were chosen because these substances are widely used in consumer products. The four oxides were evaluated using colon-derived cell lines, RKO and CaCo-2, and ZnO and TiO2 were evaluated further using skin-derived cell lines HaCaT and SK Mel-28. ZnO induced the most notable gene transcription changes, even though this material was applied at the lowest concentration. Nano-sized and conventional ZnO induced similar responses suggesting common mechanisms of action. The results showed neither a non-specific response pattern common to all substances nor synergy of the particles with TNF-α cotreatment. The response to ZnO was not consistent with a pronounced proinflammatory signature, but involved changes in metal metabolism, chaperonin proteins, and protein folding genes. This response was observed in all cell lines when ZnO was in contact with the human cells. When the cells were exposed to soluble Zn, the genes involved in metal metabolism were induced but the genes involved in protein refoldling were unaffected. This provides some of the first data on the effects of commercial metal oxide nanoparticles on human colon-derived and skin-derived cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1199-1211
Number of pages13
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Metals and Alloys


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