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Silica Nanoparticles Provoke Cell Death Independent of p53 and BAX in Human Colon Cancer Cells

Institute of Toxicology and Genetics, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Platz 1, 76344 Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nanomaterials 2019, 9(8), 1172; (registering DOI)
Received: 10 July 2019 / Revised: 7 August 2019 / Accepted: 12 August 2019 / Published: 16 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Toxicology and Biocompatibility of Nanomaterials)
PDF [2170 KB, uploaded 16 August 2019]


Several in vitro studies have suggested that silica nanoparticles (NPs) might induce adverse effects in gut cells. Here, we used the human colon cancer epithelial cell line HCT116 to study the potential cytotoxic effects of ingested silica NPs in the presence or absence of serum. Furthermore, we evaluated different physico-chemical parameters important for the assessment of nanoparticle safety, including primary particle size (12, 70, 200, and 500 nm) and surface modification (–NH2 and –COOH). Silica NPs triggered cytotoxicity, as evidenced by reduced metabolism and enhanced membrane leakage. Automated microscopy revealed that the silica NPs promoted apoptosis and necrosis proportional to the administered specific surface area dose. Cytotoxicity of silica NPs was suppressed by increasing amount of serum and surface modification. Furthermore, inhibition of caspases partially prevented silica NP-induced cytotoxicity. In order to investigate the role of specific cell death pathways in more detail, we used isogenic derivatives of HCT116 cells which lack the pro-apoptotic proteins p53 or BAX. In contrast to the anticancer drug cisplatin, silica NPs induced cell death independent of the p53–BAX axis. In conclusion, silica NPs initiated cell death in colon cancer cells dependent on the specific surface area and presence of serum. Further studies in vivo are warranted to address potential cytotoxic actions in the gut epithelium. The unintended toxicity of silica NPs as observed here could also be beneficial. As loss of p53 in colon cancer cells contributes to resistance against anticancer drugs, and thus to reoccurrence of colon cancer, targeted delivery of silica NPs could be envisioned to also deplete p53 deficient tumor cells. View Full-Text
Keywords: synthetic amorphous silica; nanoparticles; colon cells; in vitro toxicity; cell death synthetic amorphous silica; nanoparticles; colon cells; in vitro toxicity; cell death

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Fritsch-Decker, S.; An, Z.; Yan, J.; Hansjosten, I.; Al-Rawi, M.; Peravali, R.; Diabaté, S.; Weiss, C. Silica Nanoparticles Provoke Cell Death Independent of p53 and BAX in Human Colon Cancer Cells. Nanomaterials 2019, 9, 1172.

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