Assessing the cyto-genotoxic potential of model zinc oxide nanoparticles in the presence of humic-acid-like-polycondensate (HALP) and the leonardite HA (LHA)

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jun 15:721:137625. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137625. Epub 2020 Mar 2.


The present study investigates the potential cyto-genotoxic effects of model zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs) on human lymphocytes, with and/or without humic acids (HAs). Two types of HAs were studied, a natural well-characterized leonardite HA (LHA) and its synthetic-model, a humic-acid-like-polycondensate (HALP). The Cytokinesis Block Micronucleus (CBMN) assay was applied in cell cultures treated with different concentrations of ZnO NPs (0.5, 5, 10, 20 μg mL-1) and under different concentrations of either HALP or LHA (ZnO NPs-HALP and ZnO NPs-LHA, at concentrations of 0.5-0.8, 5-8, 10-16, 20-32 and 0.5-2, 5-20, 10-40, 20-80 μg mL-1, respectively). According to the results, ZnO NPs lacked genotoxicity but demonstrated cytotoxic potential. Binary mixtures of ZnO NPs-HAs (ZnO NPs-HALP or ZnO NPs-LHA) showed negligible alterations of micronuclei (MN) formation in challenged cells, with cytotoxic effects revealed only in case of cells treated with ZnO NPs-LHA at the concentration 5-20 μg mL-1. Furthermore, no genotoxic phenomena were exerted neither by the ZnO NPs nor from their mixtures with HAs. These findings indicate [i] the cytotoxic activity of used ZnO NPs on human lymphocytes, and [ii] reveal the protective role of HAs against ZnO NPs mediated cytotoxicity.

Keywords: CBMN assay; Human lymphocytes; Humic-acid-like-polycondensate; Leonardite HA; Micronuclei; Zinc oxide nanoparticles.

MeSH terms

  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Humic Substances
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Minerals
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Zinc Oxide*


  • Humic Substances
  • Minerals
  • leonardite
  • Zinc Oxide