Cytotoxicity and inflammation in human alveolar epithelial cells following exposure to occupational levels of gold and silver nanoparticles
While inhalation represents one of the most likely routes of exposure, the toxicity and response of nanoparticles at concentrations expected from such an exposure are not well understood. Here we characterized the in vitro response of human A549 adenocarcinomic alveolar epithelial cells following exposure to gold (AuNP) and silver (AgNP) nanoparticles at levels approximating an occupational exposure. Changes in neither oxidative stress nor cytotoxicity were significantly affected by exposure to AgNPs and AuNPs, regardless of NP type (Ag vs. Au), concentration, surface ligand (citrate or tannic acid), or size. An inflammatory response was, however, observed in response to 20 nm AgNPs and 20 nm AuNPs, where significant differences in the release of interleukin (IL)-8 but not IL-6 were observed. Additional data demonstrated that increased IL-8 secretion was strongly dependent on both nanoparticle size and concentration. Overall these data suggest that, while not acutely toxic, occupational exposure to AuNPs and AgNPs may trigger a significant inflammatory response in alveolar epithelium. Moreover, the differential responses in IL-8 and IL-6 secretion suggest that NPs may induce a response pathway that is distinct from those commonly elicited by allergens and pathogens.