Extensive temporal transcriptome and microRNA analyses identify molecular mechanisms underlying mitochondrial dysfunction induced by multi-walled carbon nanotubes in human lung cells

Penny Nymark*, Peter Wijshoff, Rachel Cavill, Marcel van Herwijnen, Maarten L. J. Coonen, Sandra Claessen, Julia Catalan, Hannu Norppa, Joseph Kleinjans, Jacob J. Briede

*Corresponding author for this work

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Understanding toxicity pathways of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) has recently been brought forward as a key step in twenty-first century ENM risk assessment. Molecular mechanisms linked to phenotypic end points is a step towards the development of toxicity tests based on key events, which may allow for grouping of ENM according to their modes of action. This study identified molecular mechanisms underlying mitochondrial dysfunction in human bronchial epithelial BEAS 2B cells following exposure to one of the most studied multiwalled carbon nanotubes (Mitsui MWCNT-7). Asbestos was used as a positive control and a non-carcinogenic glass wool material was included as a negative fibre control. Decreased mitochondria' membrane potential (MMP)) was observed for MWCNTs at a biologically relevant dose (0.25 jLgicm2) and for asbestos at 2 lig/cm2, but not for glass wool. Extensive temporal transcriptomic and microRNA expression analyses identified a 330-gene signature (including 26 genes with known mitochondrial function) related to MWCNT- and asbestos-induced MMPI. Forty-nine of the MMP1-associated genes showed highly similar expression patterns over time (six time points) and the majority was found to be regulated by two transcription factors strongly involved in mitochondrial homeostasis, APP and NRFI. In addition, four miRNAs were correlated with MMP I and one of them, miR-1275, was found to negatively correlate with a large part of the MMP1-associated genes. Cellular processes such as gluconeogenesis, mitochondrial LC-fatty acid [3-oxidation and spindle microtubule function were enriched among the MMP f-associated genes and miRNAs. These results are expected to be useful in the identification of key events in ENM-related toxicity pathways for the development of molecular screening techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-635
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Asbestos
  • gene expression
  • glass wool
  • microRNA
  • mitochondrial membrane potential
  • multi-walled carbon nanotubes

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