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In vitro toxicity of different-sized ZnO nanoparticles in Caco-2 cells

Tianshu Kang1, Rongfa Guan1*, Xiaoqiang Chen2, Yijuan Song1, Han Jiang1 and Jin Zhao1

Author Affiliations

1 Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Biometrology and Inspection and Quarantine, China Jiliang University, Hangzhou 310018, People’s Republic of China

2 Hubei University of Technology, Wuhan 430068, People’s Republic of China

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2013, 8:496  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-496

Published: 21 November 2013


There has been rapid growth in nanotechnology in both the public and private sectors worldwide, but concern about nanosafety exists. To assess size-dependent cytotoxicity on human cancer cells, we studied the cytotoxic effect of three kinds of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs) on human epithelial colorectal adenocarcinoma (Caco-2) cells. Nanoparticles were first characterized by size, distribution, and intensity. Multiple assays have been adopted to measure the cell activity and oxidative stress. The cytotoxicity of ZnO NPs was time dependent and dose dependent. The 24-h exposure was chosen to confirm the viability and accessibility of the cells and taken as the appropriate time for the following test system. The IC50 value was found at a low concentration. The oxidative stress elicited a significant reduction in glutathione with increase in reactive oxygen species and lactate dehydrogenase. The toxicity resulted in a deletion of cells in the G1 phase and an accumulation of cells in the S and G2/M phases. One type of metallic oxide (ZnO) exerted different cytotoxic effects according to different particle sizes. Data from the previous experiments showed that 26-nm ZnO NPs appeared to have the highest toxicity to Caco-2 cells. The study demonstrated the toxicity of ZnO NPs to Caco-2 cells and the impact of particle size, which could be useful in the medical applications.

ZnO nanoparticles; Nanotoxicity: Caco-2 cells