Document Type


Publication Date



School of Pharmacy


Pharmaceutical Sciences


Background: Nano-scaled cerium oxide (nCeO2) is used in a variety of applications, including use as a fuel additive, catalyst, and polishing agent, yet potential adverse health effects associated with nCeO2 exposure remain incompletely understood. Given the increasing utility and demand for engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) such as nCeO2, “safety-bydesign” approaches are currently being sought, meaning that the physicochemical properties (e.g., size and surface chemistry) of the ENMs are altered in an effort to maximize functionality while minimizing potential toxicity. In vivo studies have shown in a rat model that inhaled nCeO2 deposited deep in the lung and induced fibrosis. However, little is known about how the physicochemical properties of nCeO2, or the coating of the particles with a material such as amorphous silica (aSiO2), may affect the bio-activity of these particles. Thus, we hypothesized that the physicochemical properties of nCeO2 may explain its potential to induce fibrogenesis, and that a nano-thin aSiO2 coating on nCeO2 may counteract that effect.

Results: Primary normal human lung fibroblasts were treated at occupationally relevant doses with nCeO2 that was either left uncoated or was coated with aSiO2 (amsCeO2). Subsequently, fibroblasts were analyzed for known hallmarks of fibrogenesis, including cell proliferation and collagen production, as well as the formation of fibroblastic nodules. The results of this study are consistent with this hypothesis, as we found that nCeO2 directly induced significant production of collagen I and increased cell proliferation in vitro, while amsCeO2 did not. Furthermore, treatment of fibroblasts with nCeO2, but not amsCeO2, significantly induced the formation of fibroblastic nodules, a clear indicator of fibrogenicity. Such in vitro data is consistent with recent in vivo observations using the same nCeO2 nanoparticles and relevant doses. This effect appeared to be mediated through TGFβ signaling since chemical inhibition of the TGFβ receptor abolished these responses.

Conclusions: These results indicate that differences in the physicochemical properties of nCeO2 may alter the fibrogenicity of this material, thus highlighting the potential benefits of “safety-by-design” strategies. In addition, this study provides an efficient in vitro method for testing the fibrogenicity of ENMs that strongly correlates with in vivo findings

Source Citation

Davidson, D. C., Derk, R., He, X., Stueckle, T. A., Cohen, J., Pirela, S. V., … Wang, L. (2015). Direct stimulation of human fibroblasts by nCeO2 in vitro is attenuated with an amorphous silica coating. Particle and Fibre Toxicology, 13(1).


© 2016 Davidson et al. 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.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.