Metabolic effects of TIO2 nanoparticles, a common component of sunscreens and cosmetics, on human keratinocytes

P. Tucci, G. Porta, M. Agostini, D. Dinsdale, I. Iavicoli, K. Cain, A. Finazzi-Agró, G. Melino, A. Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The long-term health risks of nanoparticles remain poorly understood, which is a serious concern given their prevalence in the environment from increased industrial and domestic use. The extent to which such compounds contribute to cellular toxicity is unclear, and although it is known that induction of oxidative stress pathways is associated with this process, the proteins and the metabolic pathways involved with nanoparticle-mediated oxidative stress and toxicity are largely unknown. To investigate this problem further, the effect of TiO2 on the HaCaT human keratinocyte cell line was examined. The data show that although TiO2 does not affect cell cycle phase distribution, nor cell death, these nanoparticles have a considerable and rapid effect on mitochondrial function. Metabolic analysis was performed to identify 268 metabolites of the specific pathways involved and 85 biochemical metabolites were found to be significantly altered, many of which are known to be associated with the cellular stress response. Importantly, the uptake of nanoparticles into the cultured cells was restricted to phagosomes, TiO 2 nanoparticles did not enter into the nucleus or any other cytoplasmic organelle. No other morphological changes were detected after 24-h exposure consistent with a specific role of mitochondria in this response.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Apoptosis
  • Cancer
  • Cosmetics
  • Metabolism
  • Sunscreens
  • Titanium dioxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Immunology
  • Cancer Research
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)


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