Cerium oxide nanoparticles, rns, ros, nitric oxide, peroxynitrite, alzheimer's disease, phosphatase


Cerium oxide nanoparticles (CeO2 NPs)(nanoceria) have been shown to possess a substantial oxygen storage capacity via the interchangeable surface reduction and oxidation of cerium atoms, cycling between the Ce4+ and Ce3+ redox states. Reduction of Ce4+ to Ce3+ causes oxygen vacancies or defects on the surface of the crystalline lattice structure of the particles, generating a cage for redox reactions to occur. The study of the chemical and biological properties of CeO2 NPs has expanded recently, and the methods used to synthesize these materials are also quite diverse. This has led to a plethora of studies describing various preparations of CeO2 NPs for potential use in both industry and for biomedical research. Our own work has centered on studies that measure the ability of water-based CeO2 NPs materials to reduce reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in biological systems, and correlating changes in surface chemistry and charge to the catalytic nature of the particles. The application in experimental and biomedical research of CeO2 NPs began with the discovery that water-based cerium oxide nanoparticles could act as superoxide dismutase mimetics followed by their ability to reduce hydrogen dioxide similar to catalase. While their ROS scavenging ability was well established, their ability to interact with specific RNS species, specifically nitric oxide (·NO) or peroxynitrite (ONOO- ) was not known. The studies described in this dissertation focus on the study of RNS and cerium oxide nanoparticles. Our in vitro work revealed that CeO2 NPs that have higher levels of reduced cerium sites (3+) at the surface (which are effective SOD mimetics) are also capable of accelerating the iv decay of peroxynitrite in vitro. In contrast, CeO2 NPs that have fewer reduced cerium sites at the particle surface (which also exhibit better catalase mimetic activity) have ·NO scavenging capabilities as well as some reactivity with peroxynitrite. Our studies and many others have shown cerium oxide nanoparticles can reduce ROS and RNS in cell culture or animal models. The accumulation of ROS and RNS is a common feature of many diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Testing our CeO2 NPS in cortical neurons, we used addition of Aβ peptide as an AD model system. CeO2 NPs delayed Aβ-induced mitochondrial fragmentation and neuronal cell death. When mitochondrial ROS levels are increased, mitochondrial fission is activated by DRP1 S616 phosphorylation. Specifically, our studies showed the reduction of phosphorylated DRP1 S616 in the presence of CeO2 NPs. Results from our studies have begun to unravel the molecule mechanism behind the catalytic nature of how CeO2 NPs reduce ROS/RNS in biological systems and represents an important step forward to test the potential neuroprotective effects of CeO2 NPs in model systems of AD. A plethora of studies describing various preparations of CeO2 NPs for potential use in both industry and for biomedical research have been described in the past five years. It has become apparent that the outcomes of CeO2 NPs exposure can vary as much as the synthesis methods and cell types tested. In an effort to understand the disparity in reports describing the toxicity or protective effects of exposure to CeO2 NPs, we compared CeO2 NPs synthesized by three different methods; H2O2 (CNP1), NH4OH (CNP2) or hexamethylenetetramine (HMT-CNP1). Exposure to HMT-CNP1 led to reduced metabolic activity (MTT) at a 10-fold lower concentration than CNP1 or CNP2 and surprisingly, exposure to HMT-CNP1 led to substantial v decreases in the ATP levels. Mechanistic studies revealed that HMT-CNP1 and CNP2 exhibited robust ATPase (phosphatase) activity, whereas CNP1 lacked ATPase activity. HMT-CNP1 were taken up into HUVECs far more efficiently than the other preparations of CeO2 NPs. Taken together, these results suggest the combination of increased uptake and ATPase activity of HMT-CNP1 may underlie the mechanism of the toxicity of this preparation of CeO2 NPs, and may suggest ATPase activity should be considered when synthesizing CeO2 NPs for use in biomedical applications. Overall the studies have uncovered two new catalytic activities for water-based CeO2 NPs (·NO scavenging and accelerated decay of peroxynitrite), demonstrated their ability to reduce RNS in an AD cell culture model as well as identifying a catalytic activity (phosphatase) that may underlie the observed toxicity of CeO2 NPs reported in other studies.


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Graduation Date





Self, William


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Medicine


Molecular Biology and Microbiology

Degree Program

Biomedical Sciences








Release Date

June 2014

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Medicine, Medicine -- Dissertations, Academic