Acute and subacute pulmonary toxicity and mortality in mice after intratracheal instillation of ZnO nanoparticles in three laboratories

Nicklas Raun Jacobsen, Tobias Stoeger, Sybille van den Brule, Anne Thoustrup Saber, Andrea Beyerle, Giulia Vietti, Alicja Mortensen, Józef Szarek, Hans Christian Budtz, Ali Kermanizadeh, Atrayee Banerjee, Nuran Ercal, Ulla Vogel, Håkan Wallin, Peter Møller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Inhalation is the main pathway of ZnO exposure in the occupational environment but only few studies have addressed toxic effects after pulmonary exposure to ZnO nanoparticles (NP). Here we present results from three studies of pulmonary exposure and toxicity of ZnO NP in mice. The studies were prematurely terminated because interim results unexpectedly showed severe pulmonary toxicity. High bolus doses of ZnO NP (25 up to 100 μg; ≥1.4 mg/kg) were clearly associated with a dose dependent mortality in the mice. Lower doses (≥6 μg; ≥0.3 mg/kg) elicited acute toxicity in terms of reduced weight gain, desquamation of epithelial cells with concomitantly increased barrier permeability of the alveolar/blood as well as DNA damage. Oxidative stress was shown via a strong increase in lipid peroxidation and reduced glutathione in the pulmonary tissue. Two months post-exposure revealed no obvious toxicity for 12.5 and 25 μg on a range of parameters. However, mice that survived a high dose (50 μg; 2.7 mg/kg) had an increased pulmonary collagen accumulation (fibrosis) at a similar level as a high bolus dose of crystalline silica. The recovery from these toxicological effects appeared dose-dependent. The results indicate that alveolar deposition of ZnO NP may cause significant adverse health effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-95
Number of pages12
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Animals
  • Biomarkers/blood
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • DNA Damage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Inhalation Exposure/adverse effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation/drug effects
  • Liver/drug effects
  • Lung/drug effects
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nanoparticles/administration & dosage
  • Oxidative Stress/drug effects
  • Particle Size
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis/chemically induced
  • Random Allocation
  • Respiratory Mucosa/drug effects
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Survival Analysis
  • Toxicity Tests, Acute
  • Toxicity Tests, Subacute
  • Weight Gain/drug effects
  • Zinc Oxide/administration & dosage


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