Differential effects of graphene materials on the metabolism and function of human skin cells†
Graphene-related materials (GRMs) such as graphene oxide (GO) and few-layer graphene (FLG) are used in multiple biomedical applications; however, there is still insufficient information available regarding their interactions with the main biological barriers such as skin. In this study, we explored the effects of GO and FLG on HaCaTs human skin keratinocytes, using NMR-based metabolomics and fluorescence microscopy to evaluate the global impact of each GRM on cell fate and damage. GO and FLG at low concentrations (5 μg mL−1) induced a differential remodeling of the metabolome, preceded by an increase in the level of radical oxygen species (ROS) and free cytosolic Ca2+. These changes are linked to a concentration-dependent increase in cell death by triggering apoptosis and necrosis, the latter being predominant at higher concentrations of the nanostructures. In addition, both compounds reduce the ability of HaCaT cells to heal wounds. Our results demonstrate that the GO and FLG used in this study, which mainly differ in their oxidation state, slightly trigger differential effects on HaCaTs cells, but with evident outcomes at the cellular and molecular levels. Their behavior as pro-apoptotic/necrotic substances and their ability to inhibit cell migration, even at low doses, should be considered in the development of future applications.