Objective. Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) are considered to be one of the nanomaterials attractive for biomedical applications, particularly in the health sciences as imaging probes and drug carriers, especially in the field of cancer therapy. The increasing exploitation of nanotubes necessitates a comprehensive evaluation of the potential impact of these nanomaterials, which purposefully accumulate in the cell nucleus, on the human health and the function of the genome in the normal and tumor tissues. The aim of this study was to investigate the sensitivity of the expression of DNAJB9 and some other genes associated with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and cell proliferation to low doses of SWCNTs in normal human astrocytes (NHA/TS) and glioblastoma cells (U87MG) with and without an inhibition of ERN1 signaling pathway of the ER stress.

Methods. Normal human astrocytes, line NHA/TS and U87 glioblastoma cells stable transfected by empty vector or dnERN1 (dominant-negative construct of ERN1) were exposed to low doses of SWCNTs (2 and 8 ng/ml) for 24 h. RNA was extracted from the cells and used for cDNA synthesis. The expression levels of DNAJB9, TOB1, BRCA1, DDX58, TFPI2, CLU, and P4HA2 mRNAs were measured by a quantitative polymerase chain reaction and normalized to ACTB mRNA.

Results. It was found that the low doses of SWCNTs up-regulated the expression of DNAJB9, TOB1, BRCA1, DDX58, TFPI2, CLU, and P4HA2 genes in normal human astrocytes in dose-dependent (2 and 8 ng/ml) and gene-specific manner. These nanotubes also increased the expression of most studied genes in control (transfected by empty vector) U87 glioblastoma cells, but with much lesser extent than in NHA/TS. However, the expression of CLU gene in control U87 glioblastoma cells treated with SWCNTs was down-regulated in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, the expression of TOB1 and P4HA2 genes did not significantly change in these glioblastoma cells treated by lower dose of SWCNTs only. At the same time, inhibition of ERN1 signaling pathway of ER stress in U87 glioblastoma cells led mainly to a stronger resistance of DNAJB9, TOB1, BRCA1, DDX58, TFPI2, and P4HA2 gene expression to both doses of SWCNTs.

Conclusion. The data obtained demonstrate that the low doses of SWCNTs disturbed the genome functions by changing the levels of key regulatory gene expressions in gene-specific and dose-dependent manner, but their impact was much stronger in the normal human astrocytes in comparison with the tumor cells. It is possible that ER stress, which is constantly present in tumor cells and responsible for multiple resistances, also created a partial resistance to the SWCNTs action. Low doses of SWCNTs induced more pronounced changes in the expression of diverse genes in the normal human astrocytes compared to glioblastoma cells indicating for a possible both genotoxic and neurotoxic effects with a greater extent in the normal cells.