We investigated the potential of four well-characterized amorphous silica nanoparticles to induce chromosomal aberrations and gene mutations using two in vitro genotoxicity assays. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was used to verify the manufacturer's nominal size of 10, 30, 80 and 400 nm which showed actual sizes of 11, 34, 34 and 248 nm, respectively. The 80 (34) nm silica nanoparticles induced chromosomal aberrations in the micronucleus assay using 3T3-L1 mouse fibroblasts and the 30 (34) and 80 (34) nm silica nanoparticles induced gene mutations in mouse embryonic fibroblasts carrying the lacZ reporter gene. TEM imaging demonstrated that the majority of nanoparticles were localized in vacuoles and not in the nucleus of 3T3-L1 cells, indicating that the observed DNA damage was most likely a result of indirect mechanisms. Further studies are needed to reveal these mechanisms and to determine the biological relevance of the effects of these particular silica nanoparticles in vivo.