Neurotoxicity of low-dose repeatedly intranasal instillation of nano- and submicron-sized ferric oxide particles in mice

Bing Wang, Weiyue Feng, Motao Zhu, Yun Wang, Meng Wang, Yiqun Gu, Hong Ouyang, Huajian Wang, Ming Li, Yuliang Zhao, Zhifang Chai, Haifang Wang

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120 Scopus citations


Olfactory tract has been demonstrated to be an important portal for inhaled solid nanoparticle transportation into the central nervous system (CNS). We have previously demonstrated that intranasally instilled Fe2O 3 nanoparticles could transport into the CNS via olfactory pathway. In this study, we investigated the neurotoxicity and size effect of repeatedly low-dose (130 μg) intranasal exposure of nano- and submicron-sized Fe 2O3 particles (21 nm and 280 nm) to mice. The biomarkers of oxidative stress, activity of nitric oxide synthases and release of monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain were studied. Our results showed that significant oxidative stress was induced by the two sizes of Fe2O3 particles. The activities of GSH-Px, Cu,Zn-SOD, and cNOS significantly elevated and the total GSH and GSH/GSSG ratio significantly decreased in the olfactory bulb and hippocampus after the nano- and submicron-sized Fe2O 3 particle treatment (p < 0.05). The nano-sized Fe 2O3 generally induced greater alteration and more significant dose-effect response than the submicron-sized particle did. Some slight perturbation of monoamine neurotransmitters were found in the hippocampus after exposure to the two sizes of Fe2O3 particle. The TEM image showed that some ultrastructural alterations in nerve cells, including neurodendron degeneration, membranous structure disruption and lysosome increase in the olfactory bulb, slight dilation in the rough endoplasmic reticulum and lysosome increase in the hippocampus were induced by the nano-sized Fe2O3 treatment. In contrast, in the submicron-sized Fe2O3 treated mice, slightly swollen mitochondria and some vacuoles were observed in the olfactory bulb and hippocampus, respectively. These results indicate that intranasal exposure of Fe2O3 nanoparticles could induce more severe oxidative stress and nerve cell damage in the brain than the larger particle did. This is the first study to compare the neurotoxicity of nano- and submicron-sized Fe2O3 particles in the central nervous system after long-term and low-dose intranasal exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-53
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Central nervous system
  • EHS
  • Ferric oxide nanoparticle
  • Mice
  • Nanotechnology
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Occupational health
  • Submicron-sized

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Bioengineering


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