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Action of polystyrene nanoparticles of different sizes on lysosomal function and integrity

Eleonore Fröhlich12*, Claudia Meindl1, Eva Roblegg3, Birgit Ebner1, Markus Absenger1 and Thomas R Pieber2

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Medical Research, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

2 Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Nuclear Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

3 Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Karl-Franzens-University of Graz, Graz, Austria

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Particle and Fibre Toxicology 2012, 9:26  doi:10.1186/1743-8977-9-26

Published: 12 July 2012



Data from environmental exposure to nanoparticles (NPs) suggest that chronic exposure may increase the incidence of lung, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Impairment of cell function by intracellular accumulation of NPs is also suspected. Many types of NPs have been detected in the endosomal-lysosomal system and, upon repeated exposure, alterations of the endosomal-lysosomal system may occur. To identify such effects we compared the effect of carboxyl polystyrene particles (CPS) of different sizes (20-500 nm) on lysosomes of the endothelial cell line EAhy926 after short (24h) and long (72h-96h) exposure times. Lysosomal localization of CPS, as well as lysosomal pH, lysosomal membrane integrity, morphology of the endosomal-lysosomal system and activities of the lysosomal enzymes,cathepsin B and sulfatases, upon exposure to CPS were recorded.


CPS in sizes ≤100 nm showed high co-localization with lysosomes already after 4h, larger CPS after 24h. None of the particles at non-cytotoxic concentrations caused marked changes in lysosomal pH or destroyed lysosomal membrane integrity. At 24h of exposure, 20 nm CPS induced significant dilatation of the endosomal-lysosomal system and reduced activity of lysosomal sulfatases. After 72h, these alterations were less pronounced.


Despite accumulation in lysosomes CPS induced only small changes in lysosomes. Upon longer contact, these changes are even less pronounced. The presented panel of assays may serve to identify effects on lysosomes also for other NPs.

Nanoparticles; Lysosomes; Cathepsin B; Lysosomal sulfatase; Accumulation