Open Access Open Badges Nano Express

The Influences of Cell Type and ZnO Nanoparticle Size on Immune Cell Cytotoxicity and Cytokine Induction

Cory Hanley1, Aaron Thurber2, Charles Hanna2, Alex Punnoose2, Jianhui Zhang2 and Denise G Wingett134*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, Boise State University, Boise, ID, 83725, USA

2 Department of Physics, Boise State University, 1910 University Dr., Boise, ID, 83725, USA

3 Department of Medicine, Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA

4 MSTMRI Research Institute of St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, Boise, ID, 83712, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Nanoscale Research Letters 2009, 4:1409-1420  doi:10.1007/s11671-009-9413-8

Published: 16 September 2009


Nanotechnology represents a new and enabling platform that promises to provide a range of innovative technologies for biological applications. ZnO nanoparticles of controlled size were synthesized, and their cytotoxicity toward different human immune cells evaluated. A differential cytotoxic response between human immune cell subsets was observed, with lymphocytes being the most resistant and monocytes being the most susceptible to ZnO nanoparticle-induced toxicity. Significant differences were also observed between previously activated memory lymphocytes and naive lymphocytes, indicating a relationship between cell-cycle potential and nanoparticle susceptibility. Mechanisms of toxicity involve the generation of reactive oxygen species, with monocytes displaying the highest levels, and the degree of cytotoxicity dependent on the extent of nanoparticle interactions with cellular membranes. An inverse relationship between nanoparticle size and cytotoxicity, as well as nanoparticle size and reactive oxygen species production was observed. In addition, ZnO nanoparticles induce the production of the proinflammatory cytokines, IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-12, at concentrations below those causing appreciable cell death. Collectively, these results underscore the need for careful evaluation of ZnO nanoparticle effects across a spectrum of relevant cell types when considering their use for potential new nanotechnology-based biological applications.

Nanoparticle; ZnO; T lymphocyte; Monocytes; Cytokine; Immunity; Nanotoxicity