Shape engineered TiO2 nanoparticles in Caenorhabditis elegans: A Raman imaging based approach to assist tissue-specific toxicological studies

Luca Iannarelli, Andrea Mario Giovannozzi, Federica Morelli, Francesco Viscotti, Paolo Bigini, Valter Maurino, Giuseppe Spoto, Gianmario Martra, Erik Ortel, Vasile Dan Hodoroaba, Andrea Mario Rossi, Luisa Diomede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles (NPs) are one of the main sources of the nanoparticulate matter to which humans are directly exposed and several studies have demonstrated their potential toxic effects. The in vivo detailed spatial distribution of TiO2 NPs is investigated herein for the first time, using a 2D chemical imaging analysis based on confocal Raman spectroscopy. The invertebrate nematode C. elegans was employed as a prototypical model of living organisms. Rod, bipyramidal and quasi-spherical engineered TiO2 NPs with different primary particle sizes and agglomeration states were prepared, characterized and then administered to nematodes. Exploiting the typical fingerprint of TiO2 in the Raman spectrum, we monitored the biodistribution of NPs inside the worm using a non-invasive, label-free method. The high spatial resolution chemical imaging and the specificity of the Raman technique in the localization of TiO2 NPs helped in the design of behavioral C. elegans studies aimed at elucidating the relationship among the size, shape, and agglomeration state of NPs and their ability to induce specific toxic effects. Rod-shaped NPs were the most toxic, greatly impairing pharyngeal function, reproduction and larval growth; this indicates that the rod shape, more than the bipyramidal and spherical shapes, enables NPs to interact with biological systems. These findings indicate that this Raman-nematode combined approach represents a step forward in the field of detection of NPs in living organisms, and being rapid and inexpensive enough, it can be applied as the first screening for the ability of NPs to biodistribute and exert toxicological properties in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70501-70509
Number of pages9
JournalRSC Advances
Issue number74
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Chemistry(all)


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