Particle and fibre toxicology 2017 11 0314(1) 43 doi 10.1186/s12989-017-0224-2
Silica nanoparticles (SiNPs) have numerous beneficial properties and are extensively used in cosmetics and food industries as anti-caking, densifying and hydrophobic agents. However, the increasing exposure levels experienced by the general population and the ability of SiNPs to penetrate cells and tissues have raised concerns about possible toxic effects of this material. Although SiNPs are known to affect the function of the airway epithelium, the molecular targets of these particles remain largely unknown. Given that SiNPs interact with the plasma membrane of epithelial cells we hypothesized that they may affect the function of Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 4 (TRPV4), a cation-permeable channel that regulates epithelial barrier function. The main aims of this study were to evaluate the effects of SiNPs on the activation of TRPV4 and to determine whether these alter the positive modulatory action of this channel on the ciliary beat frequency in airway epithelial cells.
Using fluorometric measurements of intracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)]i) we found that SiNPs inhibit activation of TRPV4 by the synthetic agonist GSK1016790A in cultured human airway epithelial cells 16HBE and in primary cultured mouse tracheobronchial epithelial cells. Inhibition of TRPV4 by SiNPs was confirmed in intracellular Ca(2+) imaging and whole-cell patch-clamp experiments performed in HEK293T cells over-expressing this channel. In addition to these effects, SiNPs were found to induce a significant increase in basal [Ca(2+)]i, but in a TRPV4-independent manner. SiNPs enhanced the activation of the capsaicin receptor TRPV1, demonstrating that these particles have a specific inhibitory action on TRPV4 activation. Finally, we found that SiNPs abrogate the increase in ciliary beat frequency induced by TRPV4 activation in mouse airway epithelial cells.
Our results show that SiNPs inhibit TRPV4 activation, and that this effect may impair the positive modulatory action of the stimulation of this channel on the ciliary function in airway epithelial cells. These findings unveil the cation channel TRPV4 as a primary molecular target of SiNPs.