Pulmonary toxicity and gene expression changes after short-term inhalation exposure to surface-modified copper oxide nanoparticles

Ilse Gosens, Pedro M. Costa, Magnus Olsson, Vicki Stone, Anna L. Costa, Andrea Brunelli, Elena Badetti, Alessandro Bonetto, Bas G. H. Bokkers, Wim H. de Jong, Andrew Williams, Sabina Halappanavar, Bengt Fadeel, Flemming R. Cassee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs) have previously been shown to cause dose-dependent pulmonary toxicity following inhalation. Here, CuO NPs (10 nm), coated with polyethylenimine (PEI) or ascorbate (ASC) resulting in positively or negatively charged NPs, respectively, were evaluated. Rats were exposed nose-only to similar exposure dose levels of ASC or PEI coated CuO NPs for 5 consecutive days. On day 6 and day 27 post-exposure, pulmonary toxicity markers in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), lung histopathology and genome-wide transcriptomic changes in lungs, were assessed. BALF analyses showed a dose-dependent pulmonary inflammation and cell damage, which was supported by the lung histopathological findings of hypertrophy/hyperplasia of bronchiolar and alveolar epithelium, interstitial and alveolar inflammation, and paracortical histiocytosis in mediastinal lymph nodes for both types of CuO NPs. Transcriptomics analysis showed that pathways related to inflammation and cell proliferation were significantly activated. Additionally, we found evidence for the dysregulation of drug metabolism-related genes, especially in rats exposed to ASC-coated CuO NPs. Overall, no differences in the type of toxic effects and potency between the two surface coatings could be established, except with respect to the (regional) dose that initiates bronchiolar and alveolar hypertrophy. This disproves our hypothesis that differences in surface coatings affect the pulmonary toxicity of CuO NPs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100313
Early online date26 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Copper oxide
  • Nanoparticles
  • Pulmonary toxicity
  • Safe-by-design
  • Transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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