, Volume 85, Issue 7, pp 733-741
Date: 26 May 2010

Nanoparticles: molecular targets and cell signalling

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Increasing evidence linking nanoparticles (NPs) with different cellular outcomes necessitate an urgent need for the better understanding of cellular signalling pathways triggered by NPs. Oxidative stress has largely been reported to be implicated in NP-induced toxicity. It could activate a wide variety of cellular events such as cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, inflammation and induction of antioxidant enzymes. These responses occur after the activation of different cellular pathways. In this context, three groups of MAP kinase cascades [ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinases), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinases)] as well as redox-sensitive transcription factors such as NFκB and Nrf-2 were specially investigated. The ability of NPs to interact with these signalling pathways could partially explain their cytotoxicity. The induction of apoptosis is also closely related to the modulation of signalling pathways induced by NPs. Newly emerged scientific areas of research are the studies on interactions between NPs and biological molecules in body fluids, cellular microenvironment, intracellular components or secreted cellular proteins such as cytokines, growth factors and enzymes and use of engineered NPs to target various signal transduction pathways in cancer therapy. Recently published data present the ability of NPs to interact with membrane receptors leading to a possible aggregation of these receptors. These interactions could lead to a sustained modulation of specific signalling in the target cells or paracrine and even “by-stander” effects of the neighbouring cells or tissues. However, oxidative stress is not sufficient to explain specific mechanisms which could be induced by NPs, and these new findings emphasize the need to revise the paradigm of oxidative stress to explain the effects of NPs.

This article is published as part of Special Issue on Nanotoxicology.