Gold nanoparticles-induced cytotoxicity in triple negative breast cancer involves different epigenetic alterations depending upon the surface charge

Sci Rep. 2018 Aug 16;8(1):12295. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30541-3.


Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are used enormously in different cancers but very little is known regarding their molecular mechanism and surface charge role in the process of cell death. Here, we elucidate the molecular mechanism by which differentially charged AuNPs induce cytotoxicity in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells. Cytotoxicity assay revealed that both negatively charged (citrate-capped) and positively charged (cysteamine-capped) AuNPs induced cell-death in a dose-dependent manner. We provide first evidence that AuNPs-induced oxidative stress alters Wnt signalling pathway in MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-468 cells. Although both differentially charged AuNPs induced cell death, the rate and mechanism involved in the process of cell death were different. Negatively charged AuNPs increased the expression of MKP-1, dephosphorylated and deacetylated histone H3 at Ser10 and K9/K14 residues respectively whereas, positively charged AuNPs decreased the expression of MKP-1, phosphorylated and acetylated histone H3 at Ser 10 and K9/K14 residues respectively. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) studies revealed that AuNPs were localised in cytoplasm and mitochondria of MDA-MB-231 cells. Interestingly, AuNPs treatment makes MDA-MB-231 cells sensitive to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) by decreasing the expression of thymidylate synthetase enzyme. This study highlights the role of surface charge (independent of size) in the mechanisms of toxicity and cell death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Surface Properties
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Gold