Open Access Research

Pulmonary exposure to single-walled carbon nanotubes does not affect the early immune response against Toxoplasma gondii

Linda Swedin1, Romanico Arrighi23, Britta Andersson-Willman4, Ashley Murray57, Yunying Chen4, Mikael C I Karlsson4, Susanna Kumlien Georén6, Alexey V Tkach5, Anna A Shvedova57, Bengt Fadeel1, Antonio Barragan23 and Annika Scheynius4*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Environmental Medicine, Division of Molecular Toxicology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Center for Infectious Medicine, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Translational Immunology Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

5 Pathology and Physiology Research Branch, Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, WV, USA

6 Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology, Division of ENTdiseases, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

7 Department Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA

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Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2012, 9:16  doi:10.1186/1743-8977-9-16

Published: 23 May 2012



Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) trigger pronounced inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs of mice following administration via pharyngeal aspiration or inhalation. Human exposure to SWCNT in an occupational setting may occur in conjunction with infections and this could yield enhanced or suppressed responses to the offending agent. Here, we studied whether the sequential exposure to SWCNT via pharyngeal aspiration and infection of mice with the ubiquitous intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii would impact on the immune response of the host against the parasite.


C57BL/6 mice were pre-exposed by pharyngeal administration of SWCNT (80 + 80 μg/mouse) for two consecutive days followed by intravenous injection with either 1x103 or 1x104 green fluorescence protein and luciferase-expressing T. gondii tachyzoites. The dissemination of T. gondii was monitored by in vivo bioluminescence imaging in real time for 7 days and by plaque formation. The inflammatory response was analysed in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, and by assessment of morphological changes and immune responses in lung and spleen.


There were no differences in parasite distribution between mice only inoculated with T. gondii or those mice pre-exposed for 2 days to SWCNT before parasite inoculum. Lung and spleen histology and inflammation markers in BAL fluid reflected the effects of SWCNT exposure and T. gondii injection, respectively. We also noted that CD11c positive dendritic cells but not F4/80 positive macrophages retained SWCNT in the lungs 9 days after pharyngeal aspiration. However, co-localization of T. gondii with CD11c or F4/80 positive cells could not be observed in lungs or spleen. Pre-exposure to SWCNT did not affect the splenocyte response to T. gondii.


Taken together, our data indicate that pre-exposure to SWCNT does not enhance or suppress the early immune response to T. gondii in mice.

Carbon nanotubes; Bioluminescence imaging; Inflammation markers; Lung and spleen immunohistology; Dendritic cells; Macrophages; Toxoplasma gondii