Uptake and Toxicity of Respirable Carbon-Rich Uranium-Bearing Particles: Insights into the Role of Particulates in Uranium Toxicity. Academic Article uri icon


  • Particulate matter (PM) presents an environmental health risk for communities residing close to uranium (U) mine sites. However, the role of the particulate form of U on its cellular toxicity is still poorly understood. Here, we investigated the cellular uptake and toxicity of C-rich U-bearing particles as a model organic particulate containing uranyl citrate over a range of environmentally relevant concentrations of U (0-445 μM). The cytotoxicity of C-rich U-bearing particles in human epithelial cells (A549) was U-dose-dependent. No cytotoxic effects were detected with soluble U doses. Carbon-rich U-bearing particles with a wide size distribution (<10 μm) presented 2.7 times higher U uptake into cells than the particles with a narrow size distribution (<1 μm) at 100 μM U concentration. TEM-EDS analysis identified the intracellular translocation of clusters of C-rich U-bearing particles. The accumulation of C-rich U-bearing particles induced DNA damage and cytotoxicity as indicated by the increased phosphorylation of the histone H2AX and cell death, respectively. These findings reveal the toxicity of the particulate form of U under environmentally relevant heterogeneous size distributions. Our study opens new avenues for future investigations on the health impacts resulting from environmental exposures to the particulate form of U near mine sites.

publication date

  • December 2021