Biophysical assessment of single cell cytotoxicity: Diesel exhaust particle-treated human aortic endothelial cells

Yangzhe Wu, Tian Yu, Timothy A. Gilbertson, Anhong Zhou, Hao Xu, Kytai Truong Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Exposure to diesel exhaust particles (DEPs), a major source of traffic-related air pollution, has become a serious health concern due to its adverse influences on human health including cardiovascular and respiratory disorders. To elucidate the relationship between biophysical properties (cell topography, cytoskeleton organizations, and cell mechanics) and functions of endothelial cells exposed to DEPs, atomic force microscope (AFM) was applied to analyze the toxic effects of DEPs on a model cell line from human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs). Fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry were also applied to further explore DEP-induced cytotoxicity in HAECs. Results revealed that DEPs could negatively impair cell viability and alter membrane nanostructures and cytoskeleton components in a dosage- and a time-dependent manner; and analyses suggested that DEPs-induced hyperpolarization in HAECs appeared in a time-dependent manner, implying DEP treatment would lead to vasodilation, which could be supported by down-regulation of cell biophysical properties (e.g., cell elasticity). These findings are consistent with the conclusion that DEP exposure triggers important biochemical and biophysical changes that would negatively impact the pathological development of cardiovascular diseases. For example, DEP intervention would be one cause of vasodilation, which will expand understanding of biophysical aspects associated with DEP cytotoxicity in HAECs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere36885
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 25 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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