There is great interest in substituting animal work with in vitro experimentation in human health risk assessment; however, there are only few comparisons of in vitro and in vivo biological responses to engineered nanomaterials. We used high-content genomics tools to compare in vivo pulmonary responses of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) to those in vitro in cultured lung epithelial cells (FE1) at the global transcriptomic level. Primary size, surface area and other properties of MWCNT-XNRI -7 (Mitsui7) were characterized using DLS, SEM and TEM. Mice were exposed via a single intratracheal instillation to 18, 54, or 162 mu g of Mitsui7/mouse. FE1 cells were incubated with 12.5, 25 and 100 mu g/ml of Mitsui7. Tissue and cell samples were collected at 24 hours post-exposure. DNA microarrays were employed to establish mechanistic differences and similarities between the two models. Microarray results were confirmed using gene-specific RT-qPCR. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was assessed for indications of inflammation in vivo. A strong dose-dependent activation of acute phase and inflammation response was observed in mouse lungs reflective mainly of an inflammatory response as observed in BAL. In vitro, a wide variety of core cellular functions were affected including transcription, cell cycle, and cellular growth and proliferation. Oxidative stress, fibrosis and inflammation processes were altered in both models. Although there were similarities observed between the two models at the pathway-level, the specific genes altered under these pathways were different, suggesting that the underlying mechanisms of responses are different in cells in culture and the lung tissue. Our results suggest that careful consideration should be given in selecting relevant endpoints when substituting animal with in vitro testing.
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