Single-walled carbon nanotubes increase pandemic influenza A H1N1 virus infectivity of lung epithelial cells.


<h4>Background</h4>Airborne exposure to nanomaterials from unintended occupational or environmental exposures or as a consequence of product use may lead to adverse health effects. Numerous studies have focused on single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and their ability to cause pulmonary injury related to fibrosis, and cancer; however few studies have addressed their impact on infectious agents, particularly viruses that are known for causing severe disease. Here we have demonstrated the ability of pristine SWCNTs of diverse electronic structure to increase the susceptibility of small airway epithelial cells (SAEC) to pandemic influenza A H1N1 infection and discerned potential mechanisms of action driving this response.<h4>Methods</h4>Small airway epithelial cells (SAEC) were exposed to three types of SWCNTs with varying electronic structure (SG65, SG76, CG200) followed by infection with A/Mexico/4108/2009 (pH1N1). Cells were then assayed for viral infectivity by immunofluorescence and viral titers. We quantified mRNA and protein levels of targets involved in inflammation and anti-viral activity (INFβ1, IL-8, RANTES/CCL5, IFIT2, IFIT3, ST3GAL4, ST6GAL1, IL-10), localized sialic acid receptors, and assessed mitochondrial function. Hyperspectral imaging analysis was performed to map the SWCNTs and virus particles in fixed SAEC preparations. We additionally performed characterization analysis to monitor SWCNT aggregate size and structure under biological conditions using dynamic light scattering (DLS), static light scattering (SLS).<h4>Results</h4>Based on data from viral titer and immunofluorescence assays, we report that pre-treatment of SAEC with SWCNTs significantly enhances viral infectivity that is not dependent on SWCNT electronic structure and aggregate size within the range of 106 nm - 243 nm. We further provide evidence to support that this noted effect on infectivity is not likely due to direct interaction of the virus and nanoparticles, but rather a combination of suppression of pro-inflammatory (RANTES) and anti-viral (IFIT2, IFIT3) gene/protein expression, impaired mitochondrial function and modulation of viral receptors by SWCNTs.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Results of this work reveal the potential for SWCNTs to increase susceptibility to viral infections as a mechanism of adverse effect. These data highlight the importance of investigating the ability of carbon-nanomaterials to modulate the immune system, including impacts on anti-viral mechanisms in lung cells, thereby increasing susceptibility to infectious agents.