Carboxyl (-COOH) surface modified multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs-COOH) can be used for targeted delivery of drugs and imaging. However, whether MWCNTs-COOH at environmentally relevant concentrations exert certain toxic effects on multicellular organisms and the underlying mechanisms are still largely unclear. In the present study, we applied the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to evaluate the properties of MWCNTs-COOH at environmentally relevant concentrations by comparing the effects of MWCNTs and MWCNTs-COOH exposure on C. elegans from L1-larvae to adult at concentrations of 0.001-1000 μg L -1. Exposure to MWCNTs could potentially damage the intestine (primary targeted organ) at concentrations greater than 0.1 μg L-1 and functions of neurons and reproductive organ (secondary targeted organs) at concentrations greater than 0.001 μg L-1. Carboxyl modification prevented the toxicity of MWCNTs on the primary and the secondary targeted organs at concentrations less than 100 μg L-1, suggesting that carboxyl modification can effectively prevent the adverse effects of MWCNTs at environmentally relevant concentrations. After exposure, MWCNTs-COOH (1 mg L-1) were translocated into the spermatheca and embryos in the body through the primary targeted organs. However, MWCNTs-COOH (10 μg L -1) were not observed in spermatheca and embryos in the body of nematodes. Moreover, relatively high concentrations of MWCNTs-COOH exposed nematodes might have a hyper-permeable intestinal barrier, whereas MWCNTs-COOH at environmentally relevant concentrations effectively sustained the normally permeable state for the intestinal barrier. Therefore, we elucidated the cellular basis of carboxyl modification to prevent toxicity of MWCNTs at environmentally relevant concentrations. Our data highlights the key role of biological barriers in the primary targeted organs to block toxicity formation from MWCNTs, which will be useful for the design of effective prevention strategies against MWCNTs toxicity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)