The structure and properties of gold nanoparticles make them useful for a wide array of biological application. Toxicity, however, has been observed at high concentrations using these systems. MTT, hemolysis, and bacterial viability assays were used to explore differential toxicity among the cell types used, using 2 nm core particles. These studies show that cationic particles are moderately toxic, whereas anionic particles are quite nontoxic. Concentration-dependent lysis mediated by initial electrostatic binding was observed in dye release studies using lipid vesicles, providing the probable mechanism for observed toxicity with the cationic MMPCs.