Biocompatibility of gold nanoparticles in retinal pigment epithelial cell line

Bedia Begüm Karakoçak, Ramesh Raliya, Josh T. Davis, Sanmathi Chavalmane, Wei Ning Wang, Nathan Ravi, Pratim Biswas

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62 Scopus citations


Gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) have been tested as targeted delivery agents because of their high chemical stability and surface plasmon properties. Here, we investigated the biocompatibility of Au spheres (5-, 10-, 20-, 30-, 50-. and 100-nm), cubes (50-nm), and rods (10 × 90 nm) on a retinal pigment epithelial (ARPE-19) cell line. The lethal dose for killing 50% of the cells (LD50) was evaluated using an MTT (3-[4, 5 dimethyl-thiazoly-2-yl] 2-5 diphenyl tetrazolium bromide) assay. At and above LD50, based on mass concentrations, the confluent cell layer began to detach, as shown by real-time measurements of electric impedance. We found that the biocompatibility of spheres improved with increasing nanoparticle size. The Au rods were less biocompatible than 10-nm spheres. Confocal microscopy showed that cubic (50-nm) and spherical NPs (50- and 100-nm) neither had cytotoxic effects nor entered cells. Lethal doses for internalized spherical NPs, which were toxic, were recalculated based on surface area (LD50,A) concentrations. Indeed, when biocompatibility was expressed as the surface area concentration of NPs, the curve was independent of size. The LD50,A of Au nanospheres was 23 cm2/ml. Our findings demonstrate that the sole modulation of the surface area would make it possible to use Au NPs for therapeutic purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-69
Number of pages9
JournalToxicology in Vitro
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Biocompatibility
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Electrical impedance
  • Gold nanoparticles
  • Retina
  • Surface area


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