Involvement of complement activation in the pulmonary vasoactivity of polystyrene nanoparticles in pigs: Unique surface properties underlying alternative pathway activation and instant opsonization

Tamás Mészáros, Gergely Tibor Kozma, Taro Shimizu, Koga Miyahara, Keren Turjeman, Tatsuhiro Ishida, Yechezkel Barenholz, Rudolf Urbanics, János Szebeni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: It has been proposed that many hypersensitivity reactions to nanopharmaceuticals represent complement (C)-activation-related pseudoallergy (CARPA), and that pigs provide a sensitive animal model to study the phenomenon. However, a recent study suggested that pulmonary hypertension, the pivotal symptom of porcine CARPA, is not mediated by C in cases of polystyrene nanoparticle (PS-NP)-induced reactions. Goals: To characterize PS-NPs and reexamine the contribution of CARPA to their pulmonary reactivity in pigs. Study design: C activation by 200, 500, and 750 nm (diameter) PS-NPs and their opsonization were measured in human and pig sera, respectively, and correlated with hemodynamic effects of the same NPs in pigs in vivo. Methods: Physicochemical characterization of PS-NPs included size, ζ-potential, cryo-transmission electron microscopy, and hydrophobicity analyses. C activation in human serum was measured by ELISA and opsonization of PS-NPs in pig serum by Western blot and flow cytometry. Pulmonary vasoactivity of PS-NPs was quantified in the porcine CARPA model. Results: PS-NPs are monodisperse, highly hydrophobic spheres with strong negative surface charge. In human serum, they caused size-dependent, significant rises in C3a, Bb, and sC5b-9, but not C4d. Exposure to pig serum led within minutes to deposition of C5b-9 and opsonic iC3b on the NPs, and opsonic iC3b fragments (C3dg, C3d) also appeared in serum. PS-NPs caused major hemodynamic changes in pigs, primarily pulmonary hypertension, on the same time scale (minutes) as iC3b fragmentation and opsonization proceeded. There was significant correlation between C activation by different PS-NPs in human serum and pulmonary hypertension in pigs. Conclusion: PS-NPs have extreme surface properties with no relevance to clinically used nanomedicines. They can activate C via the alternative pathway, entailing instantaneous opsonization of NPs in pig serum. Therefore, rather than being solely C-independent reactivity, the mechanism of PS-NP-induced hypersensitivity in pigs may involve C activation. These data are consistent with the “double-hit” concept of nanoparticle-induced hypersensitivity reactions involving both CARPA and C-independent pseudoallergy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)6345-6357
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Nanomedicine
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the support from European Union Seventh Framework Program grants NMP-2012–309820 (NanoAthero) and NMP-2013–602923 (TheraGlio), the Applied Materials and Nanotechnology Center of Excellence at Miskolc University, Hungary, and JSPS KAKENHI (Fund for the Promotion of Joint International Research [Fostering Joint International Research]) 15KK0310. Sincere thanks are due to Dr Ronald Taylor (University of Virginia) for providing anti-C3b/iC3b (7C12) and Dr Tom Eirik Mollnes (Oslo University, Norway) for C9neo (AE11) antibodies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Mészáros et al.


  • Adverse drug reactions
  • Anaphyla-toxins
  • Immunotoxicity
  • Nanoparticles
  • PIM cells
  • Phagocytosis
  • Pseudoallergy


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