Revisiting the stress paradigm for silica nanoparticles: decoupling of the anti-oxidative defense, pro-inflammatory response and cytotoxicity

Susanne Fritsch-Decker, Clarissa Marquardt, Tobias Stoeger, Silvia Diabaté, Carsten Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Engineered amorphous silica nanoparticles (nanosilica) are widely used in industry yet can induce adverse effects, which might be classified according to the oxidative stress model. However, the underlying mechanisms as well as the potential interactions of the three postulated different tiers of toxicity—i.e. oxidative-, pro-inflammatory- and cytotoxic-stress response—are poorly understood. As macrophages are primary targets of nanoparticles, we used several macrophage models, primarily murine RAW264.7 macrophages, and monitored pro-inflammatory and anti-oxidative reactions as well as cytotoxicity in response to nanosilica at max. 50 µg/mL. Special attention was given to the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) as potential regulators of the cellular stress response. Indeed, according to the oxidative stress model, also nanosilica elicits an, albeit modest, anti-oxidative response as well as pronounced pro-inflammatory reactions and cytotoxicity in macrophages. Interestingly however, these three tiers of toxicity seem to operate separately of each other for nanosilica. Specifically, impeding the anti-oxidative response by scavenging of reactive oxygen species does not prevent the pro-inflammatory and cytotoxic response. Furthermore, blocking the pro-inflammatory response by inhibition of MAPKs does not impair cell death. As hazard assessment has been guided by the prevailing assumption of a dose-dependent coupling of sequential tiers of toxicity, identification of critical physico-chemical parameters to assist the safe-by-design concept should be enabled by simply monitoring one of the toxicity read-outs. Our results indicate a more complex scenario in the case of nanosilica, which triggers independent pleiotropic effects possibly also related to different material properties and primary cellular targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2163-2174
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Inflammation
  • MAPK
  • Macrophage
  • Nanoparticle
  • Oxidative stress model
  • Silica


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