Aneuploidogenic effects and DNA oxidation induced in vitro by differently sized gold nanoparticles

Sebastiano Di Bucchianico, Maria Rita Fabbrizi, Silvia Cirillo, Chiara Uboldi, Douglas Gilliland, Eugenia Valsami-Jones, Lucia Migliore

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37 Citations (Scopus)


Gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) are used in many fields, including biomedical applications; however, no conclusive information on their potential cytotoxicity and genotoxicity mechanisms is available. For this reason, experiments in human primary lymphocytes and murine macrophages (Raw264.7) were performed exposing cells to spherical citrate-capped Au NPs with two different nominal diameters (5 nm and 15 nm). The proliferative activity, mitotic, apoptotic, and necrotic markers, as well as chromosomal damage were assessed by the cytokinesis-block micronucleus cytome assay. Fluorescence in situ hybridization with human and murine pancentromeric probes was applied to distinguish between clastogenic and aneuploidogenic effects. Our results indicate that 5 nm and 15 nm Au NPs are able to inhibit cell proliferation by apoptosis and to induce chromosomal damage, in particular chromosome mis-segregation. DNA strand breaks were detected by comet assay, and the modified protocol using endonuclease-III and formamidopyrimidine-DNA glycosylase restriction enzymes showed that pyrimidines and purines were oxidatively damaged by Au NPs. Moreover, we show a size-independent correlation between the cytotoxicity of Au NPs and their tested mass concentration or absolute number, and genotoxic effects which were more severe for Au NP 15 nm compared to Au NP 5 nm. Results indicate that apoptosis, aneuploidy, and DNA oxidation play a pivotal role in the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity exerted by Au NPs in our cell models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2191-2204
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Nanomedicine
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2014


  • Aneugens
  • Aneuploidy
  • Animals
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • DNA Damage
  • Gold
  • Humans
  • Macrophages
  • Materials Testing
  • Metal Nanoparticles
  • Mice
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Particle Size


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