The Role of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the Biological Activities of Metallic Nanoparticles

Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jan 10;18(1):120. doi: 10.3390/ijms18010120.


Nanoparticles (NPs) possess unique physical and chemical properties that make them appropriate for various applications. The structural alteration of metallic NPs leads to different biological functions, specifically resulting in different potentials for the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The amount of ROS produced by metallic NPs correlates with particle size, shape, surface area, and chemistry. ROS possess multiple functions in cellular biology, with ROS generation a key factor in metallic NP-induced toxicity, as well as modulation of cellular signaling involved in cell death, proliferation, and differentiation. In this review, we briefly explained NP classes and their biomedical applications and describe the sources and roles of ROS in NP-related biological functions in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, we also described the roles of metal NP-induced ROS generation in stem cell biology. Although the roles of ROS in metallic NP-related biological functions requires further investigation, modulation and characterization of metallic NP-induced ROS production are promising in the application of metallic NPs in the areas of regenerative medicine and medical devices.

Keywords: cellular signaling; nanoparticles (NPs); reactive oxygen species (ROS); regenerative medicine; stem cells; toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biosensing Techniques
  • DNA Damage
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / classification
  • Optical Imaging
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species