Multiparametric Assessment of Gold Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity in Cancerous and Healthy Cells: The Role of Size, Shape, and Surface Chemistry

Manjari Bhamidipati, Laura Fabris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, we and others have become interested in evaluating the use of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) tags for early cancer detection and in designing new approaches to demonstrate the applicability of this spectroscopic technique in the clinic. SERS-based imaging in particular offers ultra sensitivity up to the single molecule, multiplexing capability, and increased photostability and has been shown to outperform fluorescence. However, to employ SERS tags for early cancer detection, it is important to understand their interaction with cells and determine their cytotoxicity. We have been particularly interested for quite some time in determining if and how gold nanostars, which have been demonstrated as outstanding SERS enhancing substrates, can be safely employed in living systems and translated to the clinic. In this study, we carried out a multiparametric in vitro study to look at the cytotoxicity and cellular uptake of gold nanoparticles on human glioblastoma and human dermal fibroblast cell lines. Cytotoxicity was evaluated by incubating cells with three different morphologies of AuNPs, namely nanospheres, nanorods, and nanostars, each having three different surface chemistries (cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), and human serum albumin (HSA)). Our results showed that the surface chemistry of the nanoparticles had predominant effects on cytotoxicity, and the morphology and size of the nanoparticles only slightly affected cell viability. CTAB-coated particles were found to be the most toxic to cells, and PEGylated nanostars were determined to be the least toxic. Caspase-3 assay and LDH assay revealed that cell death occurs via apoptosis for cancerous cells and via necrosis for healthy ones. Cellular uptake studies carried out via TEM showed that the particles retain their shape even at long incubation times, which may be beneficial for in vivo SERS-based disease detection. Overall, this study provides valuable information on gold-nanoparticle-induced cytotoxicity that can be leveraged for the development of safe and effective nanoparticle-based therapeutic and diagnostic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-460
Number of pages12
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 15 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry

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