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School of Medicine


Exercise Physiology


Background: Nano-titanium dioxide (nano-TiO2) is amongst the most widely utilized engineered nanomaterials (ENMs). However, little is known regarding the consequences maternal ENM inhalation exposure has on growing progeny during gestation. ENM inhalation exposure has been reported to decrease mitochondrial bioenergetics and cardiac function, though the mechanisms responsible are poorly understood. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are increased as a result of ENM inhalation exposure, but it is unclear whether they impact fetal reprogramming. The purpose of this study was to determine whether maternal ENM inhalation exposure influences progeny cardiac development and epigenomic remodeling. Results: Pregnant FVB dams were exposed to nano-TiO2 aerosols with a mass concentration of 12.09 ± 0.26 mg/m3 starting at gestational day five (GD 5), for 6 h over 6 non-consecutive days. Aerosol size distribution measurements indicated an aerodynamic count median diameter (CMD) of 156 nm with a geometric standard deviation (GSD) of 1.70. Echocardiographic imaging was used to assess cardiac function in maternal, fetal (GD 15), and young adult (11 weeks) animals. Electron transport chain (ETC) complex activities, mitochondrial size, complexity, and respiration were evaluated, along with 5-methylcytosine, Dnmt1 protein expression, and Hif1α activity. Cardiac functional analyses revealed a 43% increase in left ventricular mass and 25% decrease in cardiac output (fetal), with an 18% decrease in fractional shortening (young adult). In fetal pups, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) levels were significantly increased (~ 10 fold) with a subsequent decrease in expression of the antioxidant enzyme, phospholipid hydroperoxide glutathione peroxidase (GPx4). ETC complex activity IV was decreased by 68 and 46% in fetal and young adult cardiac mitochondria, respectively. DNA methylation was significantly increased in fetal pups following exposure, along with increased Hif1α activity and Dnmt1 protein expression. Mitochondrial ultrastructure, including increased size, was observed at both fetal and young adult stages following maternal exposure. Conclusions: Maternal inhalation exposure to nano-TiO2 results in adverse effects on cardiac function that are associated with increased H2O2 levels and dysregulation of the Hif1α/Dnmt1 regulatory axis in fetal offspring. Our findings suggest a distinct interplay between ROS and epigenetic remodeling that leads to sustained cardiac contractile dysfunction in growing and young adult offspring following maternal ENM inhalation exposure.

Source Citation

Kunovac, A., Hathaway, Q. A., Pinti, M. V., Goldsmith, W. T., Durr, A. J., Fink, G. K., … Hollander, J. M. (2019). ROS promote epigenetic remodeling and cardiac dysfunction in offspring following maternal engineered nanomaterial (ENM) exposure. Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 16(1).


© The Author(s). 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.



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