Materials can be modified for improved functionality. Our aim was to test whether pulmonary toxicity of silica nanomaterials is increased by the introduction of: a) porosity; and b) surface doping with CuO; and whether c) these modifications act synergistically. Mice were exposed by intratracheal instillation and for some doses also oropharyngeal aspiration to: 1) solid silica 100 nm; 2) porous silica 100 nm; 3) porous silica 100 nm with CuO doping; 4) solid silica 300 nm; 5) porous silica 300 nm; 6) solid silica 300 nm with CuO doping; 7) porous silica 300 nm with CuO doping; 8) CuO nanoparticles 9.8 nm; or 9) carbon black Printex 90 as benchmark. Based on a pilot study, dose levels were between 0.5 and 162 µg/mouse (0.2 and 8.1 mg/kg bw). Endpoints included pulmonary inflammation (neutrophil numbers in bronchoalveolar fluid), acute phase response, histopathology, and genotoxicity assessed by the comet assay, micronucleus test, and the gamma-H2AX assay. The porous silica materials induced greater pulmonary inflammation than their solid counterparts. A similar pattern was seen for acute phase response induction and histologic changes. This could be explained by a higher specific surface area per mass unit for the most toxic particles. CuO doping further increased the acute phase response normalized according to the deposited surface area. We identified no consistent evidence of synergism between surface area and CuO doping. In conclusion, porosity and CuO doping each increased the toxicity of silica nanomaterials and there was no indication of synergy when the modifications co-occurred.
- Acute phase response
- Specific surface area