Date of Award


Degree Name

Biomedical Sciences


Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Eric R. Blough

Second Advisor

Todd L. Green

Third Advisor

Monica A. Valentovic


The field of nanotechnology is rapidly progressing with potential applications in the automobile, healthcare, electronics, cosmetics, textiles, information technology, and environmental sectors. Nanomaterials are engineered structures with at least one dimension of 100 nanometers or less. With increased applications of nanotechnology, there are increased chances of exposure to manufactured nanomaterials. Recent reports on the toxicity of engineered nanomaterials have given scientific and regulatory agencies concerns over the safety of nanomaterials. Specifically, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has identified fourteen high priority nanomaterials for study. Cerium oxide (CeO2) nanoparticles are one among the high priority group. Recent data suggest that CeO2 nanoparticles may be toxic to lung cell lines in vitro and lung tissues in vivo. Other work has proposed that oxidative stress may play an important role in the toxicity; however, the exact mechanism of the toxicity, has to our knowledge, not been investigated. Similarly, it is not clear whether CeO2 nanoparticles exhibit systemic toxicity. Here, we investigate whether pulmonary exposure to CeO2 nanoparticles is associated with oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis in the lungs and liver of adult male Sprague-Dawley rats.

Our data suggest that the intratracheal instillation of CeO2 nanoparticles can cause an increased lung weight to body weight ratio. Changes in lung weights were associated with the accumulation of cerium in the lungs, elevations in serum inflammatory markers, an increased Bax to Bcl-2 ratio, elevated caspase-3 protein levels, increased phosphorylation of p38-MAPK and diminished phosphorylation of ERK1/2-MAPK.

Our findings from the study evaluating the possible translocation of CeO2 nanoparticles from the lungs to the liver suggest that CeO2 nanoparticle exposure was associated with increased liver ceria levels, elevations in serum alanine transaminase levels, reduced albumin levels, a diminished sodium-potassium ratio and decreased serum triglyceride levels. Consistent with these data, rats exposed to CeO2 nanoparticles also exhibited reductions in liver weight and dose dependent hydropic degeneration, hepatocyte enlargement, sinusoidal dilatation and the accumulation of granular material in the hepatocytes.

In a follow-up study, we next examined if CeO2 deposition in the liver is characterized by increased oxidative stress and apoptosis. Our data demonstrate that increased cerium in the liver is associated with increased oxidative stress and apoptosis as assessed from hydroethidium staining, the analysis of lipid peroxidation, and TUNEL staining. In addition, increased cerium concentration in the liver was associated with an increased Bax to Bcl-2 ratio, elevated caspase-9 and elevated caspase-3 protein levels.

Taken together, these data suggest that exposure to CeO2 nanoparticles is associated with increased oxidative stress and cellular apoptosis in the lungs. It is also evident that CeO2 nanoparticles can translocate to liver and induce hepatic damage. The hepatic damage induced by CeO2 nanoparticles is associated with increased oxidative stress and apoptosis in the liver.


Nanoparticles - Health aspects.

Cerium oxides.

Medicine - Research.