The genotype-dependent influence of functionalized multiwalled carbon nanotubes on fetal development

Xinglu Huang, Fan Zhang, Xiaolian Sun, Ki Young Choi, Gang Niu, Guofeng Zhang, Jinxia Guo, Seulki Lee, Xiaoyuan Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


In many cases cancer is caused by gene deficiency that is being passed along from generation to generation. Soluble carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have shown promising applications in the diagnosis and therapy of cancer, however, the potential relationship between cancer-prone individuals and response to CNT exposure as a prerequisite for development of personalized nanomedicine, is still poorly understood. Here we report that intravenous injections of multi-walled carbon nanotubes into p53 (a well-known cancer-susceptible gene) heterozygous pregnant mice can induce p53- dependent responses in fetal development. Larger sized multi-walled carbon nanotubes moved across the blood-placenta barrier (BPB), restricted the development of fetuses, and induced brain deformity, whereas single-walled and smaller sized multi-walled carbon nanotubes showed no or less fetotoxicity. A molecular mechanism study found that multi-walled carbon nanotubes directly triggered p53-dependent apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in response to DNA damage. Based on the molecular mechanism, we also incorporated N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an FDA approved antioxidant, to prevent CNTs induced nuclear DNA damage and reduce brain development abnormalities. Our findings suggest that CNTs might have genetic background-dependent toxic effect on the normal development of the embryo, and provide new insights into protection against nanoparticle-induced toxicity in potential clinical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-865
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood-placenta barrier
  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Fetal development
  • Genetic background
  • Nanotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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