Impact of Gold Nanoparticles on the Functions of Macrophages and Dendritic Cells

Cells. 2021 Jan 7;10(1):96. doi: 10.3390/cells10010096.


Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have demonstrated outstanding performance in many biomedical applications. Their safety is recognised; however, their effects on the immune system remain ill defined. Antigen-presenting cells (APCs) are immune cells specialised in sensing external stimulus and in capturing exogenous materials then delivering signals for the immune responses. We used primary macrophages (Ms) and dendritic cells (DCs) of mice as an APC model. Whereas AuNPs did not alter significantly Ms and DCs functions, the exposure to AuNPs affected differently Ms and DCs in their responses to subsequent stimulations. The secretion of inflammatory molecules like cytokines (IL-6, TNF-α), chemokine (MCP-1), and reactive oxygen species (ROS) were altered differently in Ms and DCs. Furthermore, the metabolic activity of Ms was affected with the increase of mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis, while only a minor effect was seen on DCs. Antigen presentation to T cells increased when DCs were exposed to AuNPs leading to stronger Th1, Th2, and Th17 responses. In conclusion, our data provide new insights into the complexity of the effects of AuNPs on the immune system. Although AuNPs may be considered as devoid of significant effect, they may induce discrete modifications on some functions that can differ among the immune cells.

Keywords: antigen presenting cells; immuno-metabolism; immunotoxicity; inflammation; phagocytic cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / cytology
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / drug effects
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism*
  • Epitopes / drug effects
  • Glycolysis / drug effects
  • Gold / pharmacology*
  • Gold / toxicity
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Epitopes
  • Gold