Evaluation of the apoptogenic potential of hard metal dust (WC-Co), tungsten carbide and metallic cobalt.

Noomi Lombaert, Marlies De Boeck, Ilse Decordier, E. Cundari, Dominique Lison, Micheline Volders

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-The present study aimed at comparing in vitro the apoptogenic properties of metallic cobalt (Co), tungsten carbide (WC) and tungsten carbide-cobalt (WC-Co) in conditions known to cause genotoxicity. Human peripheral blood mononucleated cells were incubated with 2.0-6.0 mug/ml of Co alone or mixed with WC particles and 33.3-100.0 mug/ml WC alone for up to 24 h. Under these culture conditions the majority (60%) of the cobalt metal particles were almost immediately solubilised in the culture medium, while WC remained under the form of particles that were progressively phagocytosed by monocytes. Apoptosis was assessed by Annexin-V staining, flow cytometry and analysis of DNA fragmentation by ELISA. Metallic Co-particles induced apoptosis in vitro. Furthermore, although so far considered as biologically inert, WC particles also induced apoptosis. When compared with its individual components WC-Co displayed an additive apoptotic effect in the DNA fragmentation assay. Apoptosis induced by WC particles was found largely dependent on caspase-9 activation and occurred presumably in monocytes, while that induced by Co involved both caspase-9 and -8 activation. The data suggest that apoptosis induced by the tested WC-Co mixture results from the additive effects of WC apoptosis induced in monocytes and Co-specific apoptosis in both monocytes and lymphocytes. The apoptogenic properties of these metals may be important in the mechanism of lung pathologies induced by the cobalt-containing particles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalToxicol Lett
Issue number(1-2)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004

Bibliographical note

Toxicol Lett. 2004 Dec 1;154(1-2):23-34.


  • cobalt
  • tungsten carbide
  • hard metal
  • apoptosis
  • carcinogenesis

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