Network Analysis Reveals Similar Transcriptomic Responses to Intrinsic Properties of Carbon Nanomaterials in Vitro and in Vivo

Pia Kinaret, Veer Marwah, Vittorio Fortino, Marit Ilves, Henrik Wolff, Lasse Ruokolainen, Petri Auvinen, Kai Savolainen, Harri Alenius, Dario Greco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the complex molecular alterations related to engineered nanomaterial (ENM) exposure is essential for carrying out toxicity assessment. Current experimental paradigms rely on both in vitro and in vivo exposure setups that often are difficult to compare, resulting in questioning the real efficacy of cell models to mimic more complex exposure scenarios at the organism level. Here, we have systematically investigated transcriptomic responses of the THP-1 macrophage cell line and lung tissues of mice, after exposure to several carbon nanomaterials (CNMs). Under the assumption that the CNM exposure related molecular alterations are mixtures of signals related to their intrinsic properties, we inferred networks of responding genes, whose expression levels are coordinately altered in response to specific CNM intrinsic properties. We observed only a minute overlap between the sets of intrinsic property-correlated genes at different exposure scenarios, suggesting specific transcriptional programs working in different exposure scenarios. However, when the effects of the CNM were investigated at the level of significantly altered molecular functions, a broader picture of substantial commonality emerged. Our results imply that in vitro exposures can efficiently recapitulate the complex molecular functions altered in vivo. In this study, altered molecular pathways in response to specific CNM intrinsic properties have been systematically characterized from transcriptomic data generated from multiple exposure setups. Our computational approach to the analysis of network response modules further revealed similarities between in vitro and in vivo exposures that could not be detected by traditional analysis of transcriptomics data. Our analytical strategy also opens a possibility to look for pathways of toxicity and understanding the molecular and cellular responses identified across predefined biological themes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3786-3796
Number of pages11
JournalACS Nano
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nanotubes, Carbon/chemistry
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA, Transfer/genetics
  • Transcriptome


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