The current understanding of autophagy in nanomaterial toxicity and its implementation in safety assessment-related alternative testing strategies

Rong Jane Chen, Yu Ying Chen, Mei Yi Liao, Yu Hsuan Lee, Zi Yu Chen, Shian Jang Yan, Ya Ling Yeh, Li Xing Yang, Yen Ling Lee, Yuan Hua Wu, Ying Jan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Nanotechnology has rapidly promoted the development of a new generation of industrial and commercial products; however, it has also raised some concerns about human health and safety. To evaluate the toxicity of the great diversity of nanomaterials (NMs) in the traditional manner, a tremendous number of safety assessments and a very large number of animals would be required. For this reason, it is necessary to consider the use of alternative testing strategies or methods that reduce, refine, or replace (3Rs) the use of animals for assessing the toxicity of NMs. Autophagy is considered an early indicator of NM interactions with cells and has been recently recognized as an important form of cell death in nanoparticle-induced toxicity. Impairment of autophagy is related to the accelerated pathogenesis of diseases. By using mechanism-based high-throughput screening in vitro, we can predict the NMs that may lead to the generation of disease outcomes in vivo. Thus, a tiered testing strategy is suggested that includes a set of standardized assays in relevant human cell lines followed by critical validation studies carried out in animals or whole organism models such as C. elegans (Caenorhabditis elegans), zebrafish (Danio rerio), and Drosophila (Drosophila melanogaster)for improved screening of NM safety. A thorough understanding of the mechanisms by which NMs perturb biological systems, including autophagy induction, is critical for a more comprehensive elucidation of nanotoxicity. A more profound understanding of toxicity mechanisms will also facilitate the development of prevention and intervention policies against adverse outcomes induced by NMs. The development of a tiered testing strategy for NM hazard assessment not only promotes a more widespread adoption of non-rodent or 3R principles but also makes nanotoxicology testing more ethical, relevant, and cost-and time-efficient.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2387
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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