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Cytotoxic effects and the mechanism of three types of magnetic nanoparticles on human hepatoma BEL-7402 cells

Wei Kai12, Xu Xiaojun3, Pu Ximing12, Hou Zhenqing12 and Zhang Qiqing124*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemistry, College of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, PR China

2 Research Center of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, College of Materials, Xiamen University, Technology Research Center of Biomedical Engineering of Xiamen City, The Key Laboratory of Biomedical Engineering of Fujian Province, Xiamen 361005, PR China

3 Zhejiang Fishery Technical Extention Center, Hangzhou 310012, PR China

4 Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking Union Medical College, The Key Laboratory of Biomedical Material of Tianjin, Tianjin 300192, PR China

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2011, 6:480  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-6-480

Published: 29 July 2011


The evaluation of the toxicity of magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) has attracted much attention in recent years. The current study aimed to investigate the cytotoxic effects of Fe3O4, oleic acid-coated Fe3O4 (OA-Fe3O4), and carbon-coated Fe (C-Fe) nanoparticles on human hepatoma BEL-7402 cells and the mechanisms. WST-1 assay demonstrated that the cytotoxicity of three types of MNPs was in a dose-dependent manner. G1 (Fe3O4 and OA-Fe3O4) phase and G2 (C-Fe) phase cell arrests and apoptosis induced by MNPs were detected by flow cytometry analysis. The increase in apoptosis was accompanied with the Bax over-expression, mitochondrial membrane potential decrease, and the release of cytochrome C from mitochondria into cytosol. Moreover, apoptosis was further confirmed by morphological and biochemical hallmarks, such as swollen mitochondria with lysing cristae and caspase-3 activation. Our results revealed that certain concentrations of the three types of MNPs affect BEL-7402 cells viability via cell arrest and inducing apoptosis, and the MNPs-induced apoptosis is mediated through the mitochondrial-dependent pathway. The influence potency of MNPs observed in all experiments would be: C-Fe > Fe3O4 > OA-Fe3O4.

magnetic nanoparticles; BEL-7402; apoptosis; mitochondrial-dependent pathway; cell cycle