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Metal oxide nanoparticles are widely used in industry, cosmetics, and biomedicine. However, the effects of exposure to these nanoparticles on the cardiovascular system remain unknown. The present study investigated the effects of nanosized TiO2 and ZnO particles on the migration and adhesion of monocytes, which are essential processes in atherosclerogenesis, using an in vitro set-up of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and human monocytic leukemia cells (THP-1). We also examined the effects of exposure to nanosized metal oxide particles on macrophage cholesterol uptake and foam cell formation. The 16-hour exposure to ZnO particles increased the level of monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) and induced the migration of THP-1 monocyte mediated by increased MCP-1. Exposure to ZnO particles also induced adhesion of THP-1 cells to HUVECs. Moreover, exposure to ZnO particles, but not TiO2 particles, upregulated the expression of membrane scavenger receptors of modified LDL and increased cholesterol uptake in THP-1 monocytes/macrophages. In the present study, we found that exposure to ZnO particles increased macrophage cholesterol uptake, which was mediated by an upregulation of membrane scavenger receptors of modified LDL. These results suggest that nanosized ZnO particles could potentially enhance atherosclerogenesis and accelerate foam cell formation.Effects of metal oxide nanoparticles on foam cell formation were investigated.Exposure to ZnO nanoparticles induced migration and adhesion of monocytes.Exposure to ZnO nanoparticles increased macrophage cholesterol uptake.Expression of membrane scavenger receptors of modified LDL was also increased.These effects were not observed after exposure to TiO2 nanoparticles.