Amorphous silica nanoparticles (SiO2NPs) have been widely used in medicine including targeted drug/DNA delivery, cancer therapy, and enzyme immobilization. Nevertheless, SiO2NPs should be used with caution due to safety concerns associated with unique physical and chemical characteristics. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of SiO2NPs on genotoxic and non-genotoxic mechanisms associated with abnormal gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) in multistage carcinogenesis. The SiO2NPs exhibited negative responses in standard genotoxicity tests including the Ames test, chromosome aberration assay, and micronucleus assay. In contrast, the SiO2NPs significantly induced DNA breakage in comet assay. Meanwhile, SiO2NPs inhibited GJIC based on the results of scrape/loading dye transfer assay for the identification of non-genotoxic tumor-promoting potential. The reduction in expression and plasma membrane localization of Cx43 was detected following SiO2NP treatment. Particularly, SiO2NP treatment increased Cx43 phosphorylation state, which was significantly attenuated by inhibitors of extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2) and threonine and tyrosine kinase (MEK), but not by protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor. Taken together, in addition to a significant increase in DNA breakage, SiO2NP treatment resulted in GJIC dysregulation involved in Cx43 phosphorylation through the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling. Overall findings of the genotoxic and non-genotoxic carcinogenic potential of SiO2NPs provide useful toxicological information for clinical application at an appropriate dose.
- Amorphous silica
- Gap junctional intercellular communication
- Tumor promoting potential