Environmental health and toxicology

In vitro cytotoxicity of CdSe/ZnS quantum dots with different surface coatings to human keratinocytes HaCaT cells

Kavitha Pathakoti , Huey-Min Hwang , Hong Xu , Zoraida P. Aguilar , Andrew Wang


Received February 21, 2012,Revised April 28, 2012, Accepted , Available online January 11, 2013

Volume ,2013,Pages 163-171

Quantum dots (QD) nanoparticles have been widely used in biomedical and electronics fields, because of their novel optical properties. Consequently it confers enormous potential for human exposure and environmental release. To increase the biocompatibility of QDs, a variety of surface coatings or functional groups are added to increase their bioactivity and water solubility. Human adult low calcium high temperature (HaCaT) cells are the epithelial cells derived from adult human skin that exhibits normal differentiation capacity and a DNA fingerprint pattern that is unaffected by long-term cultivation, transformation, or the presence of multiple chromosomal alternations. Human keratinocytes, HaCaT cells were used to systematically evaluate the cytotoxicity of biocompatible QD made of CdSe metal core and ZnS shell with three different coatings and at three different wavelengths (530, 580 and 620 nm). In terms of half-maximal inhibitory concentration, QSA-QDs with amine-polyethyleneglycol coating and QSH-QDs with amphiphilic polymer coating were not cytotoxic, while QEI-QDs with polyethylenimine coating were highly toxic to the HaCaT cells in comparison to a reference CuInS2/ZnS. QEI-QDs led to significant increase in reactive oxygen species, decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential and DNA damage in HaCaT cells. The mechanisms of toxicity of QEI-530 and QEI-580 can be attributed to the combination of intracellular reactive oxygen species production and loss of MMP. The QDs toxicity can be attributed to the polyethylemimine surface coating which was highly toxic to cells in comparison with amine-polyethyleneglycol, but not due to the release of cadmium ions.

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