The in vitro immunomodulatory effect of multi-walled carbon nanotubes by multilayer analysis

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The study of multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) induced immunotoxicity is crucial for determining hazards posed to human health. MWCNT exposure most commonly occurs via the airways, where macrophages are first line responders. Here we exploit an in vitro assay, measuring dose-dependent secretion of a wide panel of cytokines, as a measure of immunotoxicity following the non-lethal, multi-dose exposure (IC5, IC10 and IC20) to 7 MWCNTs with different intrinsic properties. We find that a tangled structure, and small aspect ratio are key properties predicting MWCNT induced immunotoxicity, mediated predominantly by IL1B cytokine secretion. To assess the mechanism of action giving rise to MWCNT immunotoxicity, transcriptomics analysis was linked to cytokine secretion in a multilayer model established through correlation analysis across exposure concentrations. This reinforced the finding that tangled MWCNTs have greater immunomodulatory potency, displaying enrichment of immune system, signal transduction and pattern recognition associated pathways. Together our results further elucidate how structure, length and aspect ratio, critical intrinsic properties of MWCNTs, are tied to immunotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100476
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Immunotoxicity
  • In vitro model
  • Macrophage
  • Multi-walled carbon nanotube
  • THP-1

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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