Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 9690–9699

Microglial cells (BV-2) internalize titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles: toxicity and cellular responses

  • Naima Rihane
  • Thomas Nury
  • Imen M’rad
  • Lassaad El Mir
  • Mohsen Sakly
  • Salem Amara
  • Gérard Lizard
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11356-016-6190-7

Cite this article as:
Rihane, N., Nury, T., M’rad, I. et al. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23: 9690. doi:10.1007/s11356-016-6190-7


Because of their whitening and photocatalytic effects, titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2-NPs) are widely used in daily life. These NPs can be found in paints, plastics, papers, sunscreens, foods, medicines (pills), toothpastes, and cosmetics. However, the biological effect of TiO2-NPs on the human body, especially on the central nervous system, is still unclear. Many studies have demonstrated that the brain is one of the target organs in acute or chronic TiO2-NPs toxicity. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of TiO2-NPs at different concentrations (0.1 to 200 μg/mL) on murine microglial cells (BV-2) to assess their activity on cell growth and viability, as well as their neurotoxicity. Different parameters were measured: cell viability, cell proliferation and DNA content (SubG1 peak), mitochondrial depolarization, overproduction of reactive oxygen species (especially superoxide anions), and ultrastructural changes. Results showed that TiO2-NPs induced some cytotoxic effects with a slight inhibition of cell growth. Thus, at high concentrations, TiO2-NPs were not only able to inhibit cell adhesion but also enhanced cytoplasmic membrane permeability to propidium iodide associated with a loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential and an overproduction of superoxide anions. No induction of apoptosis based on the presence of a SubG1 peak was detected. The microscopic observations also indicated that small groups of nanosized particles and micron-sized aggregates were engulfed by the BV-2 cells and sequestered as intracytoplasmic aggregates after 24-h exposure to TiO2-NPs. Altogether, our data show that the accumulation TiO2-NPs in microglial BV-2 cells favors mitochondrial dysfunctions and oxidative stress.


BV-2 cells Titanium dioxide nanoparticles Neurotoxicity Oxidative stress 

Supplementary material

11356_2016_6190_MOESM1_ESM.docx (411 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 411 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Physiologie IntégréeFaculté des Sciences de BizerteJarzounaTunisia
  2. 2.Equipe “Biochimie du Peroxysome, Inflammation et Métabolisme Lipidique” (EA 7270), Faculté des SciencesUniversité de Bourgogne Franche Comté/INSERMDijonFrance
  3. 3.College of Sciences, Department of PhysicsAl Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University (IMSIU)RiyadhSaudi Arabia

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