Alumina nanoparticles induce expression of endothelial cell adhesion molecules

Elizabeth Oesterling, Nitin Chopra, Vasileios Gavalas, Xabier Arzuaga, Eun Jin Lim, Rukhsana Sultana, D. Allan Butterfield, Leonidas Bachas, Bernhard Hennig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Nanotechnology is a rapidly growing industry that has elicited much concern because of the lack of available toxicity data. Exposure to ultrafine particles may be a risk for the development of vascular diseases due to dysfunction of the vascular endothelium. Increased endothelial adhesiveness is a critical first step in the development of vascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis. The hypothesis that alumina nanoparticles increase inflammatory markers of the endothelium, measured by the induction of adhesion molecules as well as the adhesion of monocytes to the endothelial monolayer, was tested. Following characterization of alumina nanoparticles by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and particle size distribution analysis, endothelial cells were exposed to alumina at various concentrations and times. Both porcine pulmonary artery endothelial cells and human umbilical vein endothelial cells showed increased mRNA and protein expression of VCAM-1, ICAM-1, and ELAM-1. Furthermore, human endothelial cells treated with alumina particles showed increased adhesion of activated monocytes. The alumina particles tended to agglomerate at physiological pH in serum-containing media, which led to a range of particle sizes from nano to micron size during treatment conditions. These data show that alumina nanoparticles can elicit a proinflammatory response and thus present a cardiovascular disease risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-166
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 30 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Dr. Thomas Curry for help obtaining human umbilical cords. This research was supported by grants from NIEHS/NIH (P42ES07380), AHA Pre-doctoral Fellowship (0613216B), the University of Kentucky Research Support Fund, and the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • Adhesion molecules
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Endothelium
  • Manufactured nanoparticles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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