Cyto and genotoxicity of gold nanoparticles in human hepatocellular carcinoma and peripheral blood mononuclear cells

Toxicol Lett. 2012 Nov 30;215(2):119-25. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2012.09.025. Epub 2012 Oct 6.


Engineered nanomaterials have been extensively applied as active materials for technological applications. Since the impact of these nanomaterials on health and environment remains undefined, research on their possible toxic effects has attracted considerable attention. It is known that in humans, for example, the primary site of gold nanoparticles (AuNps) accumulation is the liver. The latter has motivated research regarding the use of AuNps for cancer therapy, since specific organs can be target upon appropriate functionalization of specific nanoparticles. In this study, we investigate the geno and cytotoxicity of two types of AuNps against human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (HepG2) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from healthy human volunteers. The cells were incubated in the presence of different concentrations of AuNps capped with either sodium citrate or polyamidoamine dendrimers (PAMAM). Our results suggest that both types of AuNps interact with HepG2 cells and PBMC and may exhibit in vitro geno and cytotoxicity even at very low concentrations. In addition, the PBMC were less sensitive to DNA damage toxicity effects than cancer HepG2 cells upon exposure to AuNps.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Citrates / pharmacology
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage
  • Dendrimers / pharmacology
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Gold / toxicity*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects*
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Sodium Citrate


  • Citrates
  • Dendrimers
  • PAMAM Starburst
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Gold