Research Article

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2021, 14(5): 1512–1522

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https://doi.org/10.1007/s12274-020-3210-1

Long-term exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles promotes diet-induced obesity through exacerbating intestinal mucus layer damage and microbiota dysbiosis

Xiaoqiang Zhu1,§, Lijun Zhao1,§, Zhi Liu2, Qibing Zhou1, Yanhong Zhu1 (✉), Yuliang Zhao3 (✉), and Xiangliang Yang1 (✉)

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1 National Engineering Research Center for Nanomedicine, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China
2 Department of Biotechnology, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China
3 CAS Key Laboratory for Biomedical Effects of Nanomaterials and Nanosafety, National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of China, Beijing 100190, China
§ Xiaoqiang Zhu and Lijun Zhao contribute equally to this work.

Keywords: titanium dioxide nanoparticles, nanosafety, obesity, mucus layer, gut microbiota
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  • Abstract
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Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2-NPs) are commonly used as food additives, including some high-fat foods that are risk factors for obesity. However, little is known about the effects of chronic TiO2-NPs digestion in the population on high fat diet (HFD). Herein, we reported that TiO2-NPs exacerbated HFD-induced obesity by disruption of mucus layer and alterations of gut microbiota. Oral intake of TiO2-NPs significantly increased body weight, liver weight, and amount of adipose tissues, especially in HFD-fed mice. Mechanistic studies revealed TiO2-NPs induced colonic mucus layer disruption and obesity-related microbiota dysbiosis. The damage on mucus was demonstrated through down-regulation of Muc2 gene and the absorption of mucin protein by TiO2-NPs. Consequently, mucus layer damage combined microbiota dysbiosis escalated the low-grade systemic inflammation, which exacerbated HFD-induced obesity. In contrast, gut microbiota depletion eliminated these effects, indicating gut microbiota were necessary for TiO2-NPs-induced inflammation and obesity. All the results stated the alarming role of TiO2-NPs in the HFD-driven obesity and emphasized the reevaluating the health impacts of nanoparticles commonly used in daily life, particularly, in susceptible population.
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Long-term exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles promotes diet-induced obesity through exacerbating intestinal mucus layer damage and microbiota dysbiosis. Nano Res. 2021, 14(5): 1512–1522 https://doi.org/10.1007/s12274-020-3210-1

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