Size of TiO(2) nanoparticles influences their phototoxicity: an in vitro investigation

Arch Toxicol. 2013 Jan;87(1):99-109. doi: 10.1007/s00204-012-0912-5. Epub 2012 Aug 11.


To uncover the size influence of TiO(2) nanoparticles on their potential toxicity, the cytotoxicity of different-sized TiO(2) nanoparticles with and without photoactivation was tested. It was demonstrated that without photoactivation, TiO(2) nanoparticles were inert up to 100 μg/ml. On the contrary, with photoactivation, the toxicity of TiO(2) nanoparticles significantly increased, which correlated well with the specific surface area of the particles. Our results also suggest that the generation of hydroxyl radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated damage to the surface-adsorbed biomolecules could be the two major reasons for the cytotoxicity of TiO(2) nanoparticles after photoactivation. Higher ROS generation from smaller particles was detected under both biotic and abiotic conditions. Smaller particles could adsorb more proteins, which was confirmed by thermogravimetric analysis. To further investigate the influence of the generation of hydroxyl radicals and adsorption of protein, poly (ethylene-alt-maleic anhydride) (PEMA) and chitosan were used to coat TiO(2) nanoparticles. The results confirmed that surface coating of TiO(2) nanoparticles could reduce such toxicity after photoactivation, by hindering adsorption of biomolecules and generation of hydroxyl radical (·OH) during photoactivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Animals
  • Cell Line / drug effects
  • Chitosan / chemistry
  • Chitosan / pharmacology
  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible / toxicity
  • Dermatitis, Phototoxic*
  • Hydroxyl Radical / metabolism
  • Maleates / chemistry
  • Maleates / pharmacology
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Particle Size*
  • Polyethylenes / chemistry
  • Polyethylenes / pharmacology
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Toxicity Tests / methods
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible
  • Maleates
  • Polyethylenes
  • Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • ethylene-maleic anhydride copolymer
  • Chitosan