Crystalline silica induces apoptosis in human endothelial cells in vitro

L. Santarelli, R. Recchioni, F. Moroni, F. Marcheselli, M. Governa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated whether incubation of cultured human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC) with crystalline silica at the concentration 1 cm2/ml (chosen on the basis of a pilot experiment) leads to alterations typical of apoptosis. The binding of annexin V as early, and DNA fragmentation as late events of apoptosis were measured besides the number of cells with depolarized mitochondria. The generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by HAEC in presence of silica was determined as well as silica ability to in vitro generate hydroxyl radicals was investigated. After 18 h of silica incubation, about 30% of viable cells bound annexin V. After 24 h of silica treatment, the percentage of cells with fragmented DNA (Tunel positive) was 27% and it increased up to 50% after 48 h, whereas in untreated cells this percentage was 7% and 11% after 24 and 48 h, respectively. The presence of fragmented DNA in cells treated with silica was confirmed by agarose gel electrophoresis. In agreement with these results showing an induction of HAEC apoptosis by silica incubation, the number of cells with depolarized mitochondria was significantly higher after silica treatment as compared to the control. Apoptosis was also obtained with silica added to aliquots of anti-C5a-absorbed-medium. In the cells exposed to silica there was a significant increasing of ROS generation in comparison to the untreated cells. Apoptosis might be due to peroxidative stress since silica can generate hydroxyl radicals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-108
Number of pages12
JournalCell Biology and Toxicology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • Apoptosis
  • HAEC
  • Silica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Toxicology


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