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Matthe Boyles, Christina Ranninger, Roland Reischl, Marc Rurik, Richard Tessadri, Oliver Kohlbacher, Albert Duschl, and Christian Huber (2016)

Copper oxide nanoparticle toxicity profiling using untargeted metabolomics

Part. Fiber Toxicol., 13:49.

Background The rapidly increasing number of engineered nanoparticles (NPs), and products containing NPs, raises concerns for human exposure and safety. With this increasing, and ever changing, catalogue of NPs it is becoming more difficult to adequately assess the toxic potential of new materials in a timely fashion. It is therefore important to develop methods which can provide high-throughput screening of biological responses. The use of omics technologies, including metabolomics, can play a vital role in this process by providing relatively fast, comprehensive, and cost-effective assessment of cellular responses. These techniques thus provide the opportunity to identify specific toxicity pathways and to generate hypotheses on how to reduce or abolish toxicity. Results We have used untargeted metabolome analysis to determine differentially expressed metabolites in human lung epithelial cells (A549) exposed to copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs). Toxicity hypotheses were then generated based on the affected pathways, and critically tested using more conventional biochemical and cellular assays. CuO NPs induced regulation of metabolites involved in oxidative stress, hypertonic stress, and apoptosis. The involvement of oxidative stress was clarified more easily than apoptosis, which involved control experiments to confirm specific metabolites that could be used as standard markers for apoptosis; based on this we tentatively propose methylnicotinamide as a generic metabolic marker for apoptosis. Conclusions Our findings are well aligned with the current literature on CuO NP toxicity. We thus believe that untargeted metabolomics profiling is a suitable tool for NP toxicity screening and hypothesis generation. Keywords Untargeted metabolomics Copper oxide nanoparticles Apoptosis Oxidative stress Toxicity profiling Adverse outcome pathways