Long-term exposure of A549 cells to titanium dioxide nanoparticles induces DNA damage and sensitizes cells towards genotoxic agents

Lucie Armand, Adeline Tarantini, David Beal, Mathilde Biola-Clier, Laure Bobyk, Sephanie Sorieul, Karin Pernet-Gallay, Caroline Desvergne, Iseult Lynch, Nathalie Herlin-Boime, Marie Carriere

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63 Citations (Scopus)
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Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2-NPs) are one of the most produced NPs in the world. Their toxicity has been studied for a decade using acute exposure scenarios, i.e. high exposure concentrations and short exposure times. In the present study, we evaluated their genotoxic impact using long-term and low concentration exposure conditions. A549 alveolar epithelial cells were continuously exposed to 1-50 µg/mL TiO2-NPs, 86% anatase/14% rutile, 24±6 nm average primary diameter, for up to two months. Their cytotoxicity, oxidative potential and intracellular accumulation were evaluated using MTT assay and reactive oxygen species measurement, transmission electron microscopy observation, micro-particle-induced X-ray emission and inductively-coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. Genotoxic impact was assessed using alkaline and Fpg-modified comet assay, immunostaining of 53BP1 foci and the cytokinesis-blocked micronucleus assay. Finally, we evaluated the impact of a subsequent exposure of these cells to the alkylating agent methyl methanesulfonate. We demonstrate that long-term exposure to TiO2-NPs does not affect cell viability but causes DNA damage, particularly oxidative damage to DNA and increased 53BP1 foci counts, correlated with increased intracellular accumulation of NPs. In addition, exposure over 2 months causes cellular responses suggestive of adaptation, characterized by decreased proliferation rate and stabilization of TiO2-NP intracellular accumulation, as well as sensitization to MMS. Taken together, these data underline the genotoxic impact and sensitization effect of long-term exposure of lung alveolar epithelial cells to low levels of TiO2-NPs.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date22 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2016


  • Genotoxicity
  • mechanistic toxicology
  • nanoparticles
  • TiO2
  • toxicity


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