A Nano-QSTR model to predict nano-cytotoxicity: an approach using human lung cells data

João Meneses, Michael González-Durruthy, Eli Fernandez-de-Gortari, Alla P. Toropova, Andrey A. Toropov, Ernesto Alfaro-Moreno*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The widespread use of new engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in industries such as cosmetics, electronics, and diagnostic nanodevices, has been revolutionizing our society. However, emerging studies suggest that ENMs present potentially toxic effects on the human lung. In this regard, we developed a machine learning (ML) nano-quantitative-structure-toxicity relationship (QSTR) model to predict the potential human lung nano-cytotoxicity induced by exposure to ENMs based on metal oxide nanoparticles.
Results: Tree-based learning algorithms (e.g., decision tree (DT), random forest (RF), and extra-trees (ET)) were able to predict ENMs’ cytotoxic risk in an efficient, robust, and interpretable way. The best-ranked ET nano-QSTR model showed excellent statistical performance with R2 and Q2-based metrics of 0.95, 0.80, and 0.79 for training, internal validation, and external validation subsets, respectively. Several nano-descriptors linked to the core-type and surface coating reactivity properties were identified as the most relevant characteristics to predict human lung nano-cytotoxicity.
Conclusions: The proposed model suggests that a decrease in the ENMs diameter could significantly increase their potential ability to access lung subcellular compartments (e.g., mitochondria and nuclei), promoting strong nano-cytotoxicity and epithelial barrier dysfunction. Additionally, the presence of polyethylene glycol (PEG) as a surface coating could prevent the potential release of cytotoxic metal ions, promoting lung cytoprotection. Overall, the current work could pave the way for efficient decision-making, prediction, and mitigation of the potential occupational and environmental ENMs risks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Early online date22 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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