Reducing ZnO nanoparticle cytotoxicity by surface modification

Mingdeng LuoTerence W Turney


Nanoparticulate zinc oxide (ZnO) is one of the most widely used engineered nanomaterials and its toxicology has gained considerable recent attention. A key aspect for controlling biological interactions at the nanoscale is understanding the relevant nanoparticle surface chemistry. In this study, we have determined the disposition of ZnO nanoparticles within human immune cells by measurement of total Zn, as well as the proportions of extra- and intracellular dissolved Zn as a function of dose and surface coating. From this mass balance, the intracellular soluble Zn levels showed little difference in regard to dose above a certain minimal level or to different surface coatings. PEGylation of ZnO NPs reduced their cytotoxicity as a result of decreased cellular uptake arising from a minimal protein corona. We conclude that the key role of the surface properties of ZnO NPs in controlling cytotoxicity is to regulate cellular nanoparticle uptake rather than altering either intracellular or extracellular Zn dissolution.


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