Phototoxicity and cytotoxicity of fullerol in human lens epithelial cells

Joan E. Roberts, Albert R. Wielgus, William K. Boyes, Usha Andley, Colin F. Chignell

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92 Scopus citations


The water-soluble, hydroxylated fullerene [fullerol, nano-C60(OH)22-26] has several clinical applications including use as a drug carrier to bypass the blood ocular barriers. We have assessed fullerol's potential ocular toxicity by measuring its cytotoxicity and phototoxicity induced by UVA and visible light in vitro with human lens epithelial cells (HLE B-3). Accumulation of nano-C60(OH)22-26 in the cells was confirmed spectrophotometrically at 405 nm and cell viability estimated using MTS and LDH assays. Fullerol was cytotoxic to HLE B-3 cells maintained in the dark at concentrations higher than 20 μM. Exposure to either UVA or visible light in the presence of > 5 μM fullerol-induced phototoxic damage. When cells were pretreated with non-toxic antioxidants: 20 μM lutein, 1 mM N-acetyl cysteine, or 1 mM l-ascorbic acid prior to irradiation, only the singlet oxygen quencher-lutein significantly protected against fullerol photodamage. Apoptosis was observed in lens cells treated with fullerol whether or not the cells were irradiated, in the order UVA > visible light > dark. Dynamic light scattering (DLS) showed that in the presence of the endogenous lens protein α-crystallin, large aggregates of fullerol were reduced. In conclusion, fullerol is both cytotoxic and phototoxic to human lens epithelial cells. Although the acute toxicity of water-soluble nano-C60(OH)22-26 is low, these compounds are retained in the body for long periods, raising concern for their chronic toxic effect. Before fullerols are used to deliver drugs to the eye, they should be tested for photo- and cytotoxicity in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008


  • Dynamic light scattering
  • Fullerenes
  • Fullerol
  • Human lens epithelial cells
  • Ocular toxicology
  • Phototoxicity


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