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A panel of in vitro tests to evaluate genotoxic and morphological neoplastic transformation potential on Balb/ 3T3 cells by pristine and remediated titania and zirconia nanoparticles

The FP7 Sanowork project was aimed to minimise occupational hazard and exposure to engineered nanomaterials (ENM) through the surface modification in order to prevent possible health effects. In this frame, a number of nanoparticles (NP) have been selected, among which zirconium (ZrO2) and titanium (TiO2) dioxide. In this study, we tested ZrO2 NP and TiO2 NP either in their pristine (uncoated) form, or modified with citrate and/or silica on their surface. As benchmark material, Aeroxide® P25 was used. We assessed cytotoxicity, genotoxicity and induction of morphological neoplastic transformation of NP by using a panel of in vitro assays in an established mammalian cell line of murine origin (Balb/3T3). Cell viability was evaluated by means of colony-forming efficiency assay (CFE). Genotoxicity was investigated by cytokinesis-block micronucleus cytome assay (CBMN cyt) and comet assay, and by the use of the restriction enzymes EndoIII and Fpg, oxidatively damaged DNA was detected; finally, the morphological neoplastic transformation of NP was assayed in vitro by cell transformation assay (CTA). Our results show that the surface remediation has not been effective in modifying cyto- and genotoxic properties of the nanomaterials tested; indeed, in the case of remediation of zirconia and titania with citrate, there is a tendency to emphasise the toxic effects. The use of a panel of assays, such as those we have employed, allowing the evaluation of multiple endpoints, including cell transformation, seems particularly advisable especially in the case of long-term exposure effects in the same cell type.