Cytotoxicity and immunological response of gold and silver nanoparticles of different sizes

Small. 2009 Jul;5(13):1553-61. doi: 10.1002/smll.200900126.


The immunological response of macrophages to physically produced pure Au and Ag nanoparticles (NPs) (in three different sizes) is investigated in vitro. The treatment of either type of NP at > or =10 ppm dramatically decreases the population and increases the size of the macrophages. Both NPs enter the cells but only AuNPs (especially those with smaller diamter) up-regulate the expressions of proinflammatory genes interlukin-1 (IL-1), interlukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha). Transmission electron microscopy images show that AuNPs and AgNPs are both trapped in vesicles in the cytoplasma, but only AuNPs are organized into a circular pattern. It is speculated that part of the negatively charged AuNPs might adsorb serum protein and enter cells via the more complicated endocytotic pathway, which results in higher cytotoxicity and immunological response of AuNPs as compared to AgNPS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Gold / immunology*
  • Gold / pharmacology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Materials Testing
  • Mice
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Nanoparticles / ultrastructure*
  • Particle Size
  • Silver / immunology*
  • Silver / pharmacology*


  • Silver
  • Gold