Caixia Guo,1,2 Yinye Xia,1,2 Piye Niu,1,2 Lizhen Jiang,1,2 Junchao Duan,1,2 Yang Yu,1,2 Xianqing Zhou,1,2 Yanbo Li,1,2 Zhiwei Sun1,2
Abstract: Despite the widespread application of silica nanoparticles (SiNPs) in industrial, commercial, and biomedical fields, their response to human cells has not been fully elucidated. Overall, little is known about the toxicological effects of SiNPs on the cardiovascular system. In this study, SiNPs with a 58 nm diameter were used to study their interaction with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). Dose- and time-dependent decrease in cell viability and damage on cell plasma-membrane integrity showed the cytotoxic potential of the SiNPs. SiNPs were found to induce oxidative stress, as evidenced by the significant elevation of reactive oxygen species generation and malondialdehyde production and downregulated activity in glutathione peroxidase. SiNPs also stimulated release of cytoprotective nitric oxide (NO) and upregulated inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS) messenger ribonucleic acid, while downregulating endothelial NOS and ET-1 messenger ribonucleic acid, suggesting that SiNPs disturbed the NO/NOS system. SiNP-induced oxidative stress and NO/NOS imbalance resulted in endothelial dysfunction. SiNPs induced inflammation characterized by the upregulation of key inflammatory mediators, including IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, TNFα, ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and MCP-1. In addition, SiNPs triggered the activation of the Nrf2-mediated antioxidant system, as evidenced by the induction of nuclear factor-κB and MAPK pathway activation. Our findings demonstrated that SiNPs could induce oxidative stress, inflammation, and NO/NOS system imbalance, and eventually lead to endothelial dysfunction via activation of the MAPK/Nrf2 pathway and nuclear factor-κB signaling. This study indicated a potential deleterious effect of SiNPs on the vascular endothelium, which warrants more careful assessment of SiNPs before their application.