Polymorph- and Size-Dependent Uptake and Toxicity of TiO2 Nanoparticles in Living Lung Epithelial Cells



The cellular uptake and distribution of five types of well-characterized anatase and rutile TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs) in A549 lung epithelial cells is reported. Static light scattering (SLS), in-vitro Raman microspectroscopy (μ-Raman) and transmission electron spectroscopy (TEM) reveal an intimate correlation between the intrinsic physicochemical properties of the NPs, particle agglomeration, and cellular NP uptake. It is shown that μ-Raman facilitates chemical-, polymorph-, and size-specific discrimination of endosomal-particle cell uptake and the retention of particles in the vicinity of organelles, including the cell nucleus, which quantitatively correlates with TEM and SLS data. Depth-profiling μ-Raman coupled with hyperspectral data analysis confirms the location of the NPs in the cells and shows that the NPs induce modifications of the biological matrix. NP uptake is found to be kinetically activated and strongly dependent on the hard agglomeration size—not the primary particle size—which quantitatively agrees with the measured intracellular oxidative stress. Pro-inflammatory responses are also found to be sensitive to primary particle size.