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Studies of single-walled carbon nanotubes-induced hepatotoxicity by NMR-based metabonomics of rat blood plasma and liver extracts

Bencheng Lin, Huashan Zhang, Zhiqing Lin, Yanjun Fang, Lei Tian, Honglian Yang, Jun Yan, Huanliang Liu, Wei Zhang and Zhuge Xi*

Author affiliations

Institute of health and Environmental Medicine, Key Laboratory of Risk Assessment and Control Technology for Environment and Food Safety, No.1, Dali Road, Tianjin 300050, China

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Citation and License

Nanoscale Research Letters 2013, 8:236  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-236

Published: 16 May 2013


The toxicological effects of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) were investigated after intratracheal instillation in male Wistar rats over a 15-day period using metabonomic analysis of 1H (nuclear magnetic resonance) NMR spectra of blood plasma and liver tissue extracts. Concurrent liver histopathology examinations and plasma clinical chemistry analyses were also performed. Significant changes were observed in clinical chemistry features, including alkaline phosphatase, total protein, and total cholesterol, and in liver pathology, suggesting that SWCNTs clearly have hepatotoxicity in the rat. 1H NMR spectra and pattern recognition analyses from nanomaterial-treated rats showed remarkable differences in the excretion of lactate, trimethylamine oxide, bilineurin, phosphocholine, amylaceum, and glycogen. Indications of amino acid metabolism impairment were supported by increased lactate concentrations and decreased alanine concentrations in plasma. The rise in plasma and liver tissue extract concentrations of choline and phosphocholine, together with decreased lipids and lipoproteins, after SWCNTs treatment indicated a disruption of membrane fluidity caused by lipid peroxidation. Energy, amino acid, and fat metabolism appeared to be affected by SWCNTs exposure. Clinical chemistry and metabonomic approaches clearly indicated liver injury, which might have been associated with an indirect mechanism involving nanomaterial-induced oxidative stress.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes; Hepatotoxicity; Metabolomics; Nuclear magnetic resonance