Identifying nanomaterial-bio-interactions are imperative due to the broad introduction of nanoparticle (NP) applications and their distribution. Here, we demonstrate that silica NPs effect widespread protein aggregation in the soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans ranging from induction of amyloid in nucleoli of intestinal cells to facilitation of protein aggregation in body wall muscles and axons of neural cells. Proteomic screening revealed that exposure of adult C. elegans with silica NPs promotes segregation of proteins belonging to the gene ontology (GO) group of "protein folding, proteolysis and stress response" to an SDS-resistant aggregome network. Candidate proteins in this group include chaperones, heat shock proteins and subunits of the 26S proteasome which are all decisively involved in protein homeostasis. The pathway of protein homeostasis was validated as a major target of silica NPs by behavioral phenotyping, as inhibitors of amyloid formation rescued NP-induced defects of locomotory patterns and egg laying. The analysis of a reporter worm for serotonergic neural cells revealed that silica NP-induced protein aggregation likewise occurs in axons of HSN neurons, where presynaptic accumulation of serotonin, e.g. disturbed axonal transport reduces the capacity for neurotransmission and egg laying. The results suggest that in C. elegans silica NPs promote a cascade of events including disturbance of protein homeostasis, widespread protein aggregation and inhibition of serotonergic neurotransmission which can be interrupted by compounds preventing amyloid fibrillation.


Biological Sciences

Publication Status

Open Access


National Institutes of Health, Grant P40OD010440

Keywords and Phrases

Aging; neurodegenerative disease; neurotoxicology; prevention; proteomics

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1743-5404; 1743-5390

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2023 Taylor and Francis Group; Taylor and Francis, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

20 Apr 2016

PubMed ID


Included in

Biology Commons