skip to main content


Title: Cells respond to distinct nanoparticle properties with multiple strategies as revealed by single-cell RNA-Seq

The impact of distinct nanoparticle (NP) properties on cellular response and ultimately human health is unclear. This gap is partially due to experimental difficulties in achieving uniform NP loads in the studied cells, creating heterogeneous populations with some cells “overloaded” while other cells are loaded with few or no NPs. Yet gene expression studies have been conducted in the population as a whole, identifying generic responses, while missing unique responses due to signal averaging across many cells, each carrying different loads. In this paper, we applied single-cell RNA-Seq to alveolar epithelial cells carrying defined loads of aminated or carboxylated quantum dots (QDs), showing higher or lower toxicity, respectively. Interestingly, cells carrying lower loads responded with multiple strategies, mostly with up-regulated processes, which were nonetheless coherent and unique to each QD type. In contrast, cells carrying higher loads responded more uniformly, with mostly down-regulated processes that were shared across QD types. Strategies unique to aminated QDs showed strong up-regulation of stress responses, coupled in some cases with regulation of cell cycle, protein synthesis, and organelle activities. In contrast, strategies unique to carboxylated QDs showed up-regulation of DNA repair and RNA activities and decreased regulation of cell division, coupled in some casesmore » with up-regulation of stress responses and ATP-related functions. Finally, together, our studies suggest scenarios where higher NP loads lock cells into uniform responses, mostly shutdown of cellular processes, whereas lower loads allow for unique responses to each NP type that are more diversified proactive defenses or repairs of the NP insults.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [1]
  1. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States). Earth and Biological Sciences Directorate
  2. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States). National Security Directorate
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
AC05-76RL01830; 1RC2ES018786-01
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
ACS Nano
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 10; Journal Issue: 11; Journal ID: ISSN 1936-0851
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23); National Inst. of Health (NIH) (United States)
Country of Publication:
United States
37 INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL, AND ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; single cell sorting; transcriptional response; hierarchical clustering; functional enrichment; differential gene expression
OSTI Identifier: