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Open Access Nano Express

Effects of multiwalled carbon nanotubes and triclocarban on several eukaryotic cell lines: elucidating cytotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and reactive oxygen species generation

Anne Simon1, Sibylle X Maletz1, Henner Hollert1234, Andreas Schäffer1234 and Hanna M Maes1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Environmental Research (Biology V), RWTH Aachen University, Worringerweg 1, Aachen 52074, Germany

2 School of Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China

3 Key Laboratory of Yangtze River Environment of Education Ministry of China, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai 200092, China

4 College of Resources and Environmental Science, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400715, China

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2014, 9:396  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-396

Published: 15 August 2014


To date, only a few reports about studies on toxic effects of carbon nanotubes (CNT) are available, and their results are often controversial. Three different cell lines (rainbow trout liver cells (RTL-W1), human adrenocortical carcinoma cells (T47Dluc), and human adrenocarcinoma cells (H295R)) were exposed to multiwalled carbon nanotubes, the antimicrobial agent triclocarban (TCC) as well as the mixture of both substances in a concentration range of 3.13 to 50 mg CNT/L, 31.25 to 500 μg TCC/L, and 3.13 to 50 mg CNT/L + 1% TCC (percentage relative to carbon nanotubes concentration), respectively. Triclocarban is a high-production volume chemical that is widely used as an antimicrobial compound and is known for its toxicity, hydrophobicity, endocrine disruption, bioaccumulation potential, and environmental persistence. Carbon nanotubes are known to interact with hydrophobic organic compounds. Therefore, triclocarban was selected as a model substance to examine mixture toxicity in this study. The influence of multiwalled carbon nanotubes and triclocarban on various toxicological endpoints was specified: neither cytotoxicity nor endocrine disruption could be observed after exposure of the three cell lines to carbon nanotubes, but the nanomaterial caused intracellular generation of reactive oxygen species in all cell types. For TCC on the other hand, cell vitality of 80% could be observed at a concentration of 2.1 mg/L for treated RTL-W1 cells. A decrease of luciferase activity in the ER Calux assay at a triclocarban concentration of 125 μg/L and higher was observed. This effect was less pronounced when multiwalled carbon nanotubes were present in the medium. Taken together, these results demonstrate that multiwalled carbon nanotubes induce the production of reactive oxygen species in RTL-W1, T47Dluc, and H295R cells, reveal no cytotoxicity, and reduce the bioavailability and toxicity of the biocide triclocarban.

Cytotoxicity; Endocrine disruption; Multiwalled carbon nanotubes; Nanotoxicology; Oxidative stress; Triclocarban