Macrophage fusion caused by particle instillation

Kevin L. Trout, Andrij Holian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Multinucleated giant cells (MGC) are formed by fusion of macrophages in pathological conditions. These are often studied in the context of the foreign body response to biomaterial implants, but MGC formation is rarely assessed in response to inorganic particles in the lungs. Therefore, a major objective of this study was to quantitatively compare in vivo macrophage fusion resulting from exposure to a spectrum of micron- and nano-sized particles from both environmental and engineered origin, including crystalline silica, multiwalled carbon nanotubes, titanium nanobelts, and crocidolite asbestos. Methods: Groups of C57Bl/6 mice were instilled with inorganic particles or PBS control. Lung cells were collected by lavage after one week for cell differentials, quantification of macrophage fusion, and microscopic observation of particle uptake. Results: MGC were present in lungs of all mice exposed to particles; no MGC were found in control mice. Asbestos exposure resulted in significant macrophage fusion, which coincided with significantly increased total lavage cells and percent neutrophils. Microscopic observations show particle internalization in MGC and a unique case of potential heterotypic fusion of macrophages with neutrophils. Conclusion: MGC can form in the lungs of mice within a relatively short one-week time period after particle exposure. The number of MGC was sufficient for quantification and statistical analysis, indicating that MGC formation was more than simply a rare chance occurrence. Observations of particles within MGC warrants further investigation of MGC involvement in inflammation and particle clearance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-47
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Research in Toxicology
StatePublished - Jun 10 2020


  • Cell fusion
  • Lung
  • Macrophage
  • Mouse
  • Multinucleated giant cell
  • Particles


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