Transcriptional profiling reveals gene expression changes associated with inflammation and cell proliferation following short-term inhalation exposure to copper oxide nanoparticles

Pedro M. Costa, Ilse Gosens, Andrew Williams, Lucian Farcal, Daniele Pantano, David M. Brown, Vicki Stone, Flemming R. Cassee, Sabina Halappanavar, Bengt Fadeel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Our recent studies revealed a dose-dependent proinflammatory response to copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs) in rats following short-term inhalation exposure for five consecutive days. Here transcriptomics approaches were applied using the same model to assess global gene expression in lung tissues obtained 1 day post-exposure and after a recovery period of 22 days from rats exposed to clean air or 6 hour equivalent doses of 3.3 mg m −3 (low dose) and 13.2 mg m −3 (high dose). Microarray analyses yielded about 1000 differentially expressed genes in the high-dose group and 200 in low-dose compared to the clean air control group, and less than 20 after the recovery period. Pathway analysis indicated cell proliferation/survival and inflammation as the main processes triggered by exposure to CuO NPs. We did not find significant perturbations of pathways related to oxidative stress. Upregulation of epithelial cell transforming protein 2 (Ect2), a known oncogene, was noted and ECT2 protein was upregulated in the lungs of exposed animals. Proliferation of alveolar epithelial cells was demonstrated based on Ki67 expression. The gene encoding monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (or CCL2) was also upregulated and this was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. However, no aberrant DNA methylation of inflammation-associated genes was observed. In conclusion, we have found that inhalation of CuO NPs in rats causes upregulation of the oncoprotein ECT2 and the chemokine CCL2 and other proinflammatory markers as well as proliferation in bronchoalveolar epithelium after a short-term inhalation exposure. Thus, pathways known to be associated with neoplastic processes and inflammation were affected in this model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-397
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Toxicology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1-Mar-2018
Externally publishedYes


  • epithelial cell hyperplasia
  • inflammation
  • nanoparticles
  • oncogene
  • transcriptomics

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