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Analyst. 2012 Jul 7;137(13):3004-10. doi: 10.1039/c2an00034b. Epub 2012 Mar 2.

Examining changes in cellular communication in neuroendocrine cells after noble metal nanoparticle exposure.


As nanoparticles enjoy increasingly widespread use in commercial applications, the potential for unintentional exposure has become much more likely during any given day. Researchers in the field of nanotoxicity are working to determine the physicochemical nanoparticle properties that lead to toxicity in an effort to establish safe design rules. This work explores the effects of noble metal nanoparticle exposure in murine chromaffin cells, focusing on examining the effects of size and surface functionality (coating) in silver and gold, respectively. Carbon-fibre microelectrode amperometry was utilized to examine the effect of exposure on exocytosis function, at the single cell level, and provided new insights into the compromised functions of cells. Silver nanoparticles of varied size, between 15 and 60 nm diameter, were exposed to cells and found to alter the release kinetics of exocytosis for those cells exposed to the smallest examined size. Effects of gold were examined after modification with two commonly used 'bio-friendly' polymers, either heparin or poly (ethylene glycol), and gold nanoparticles were found to induce altered cellular adhesion or the number of chemical messenger molecules released, respectively. These results support the body of work suggesting that noble metal nanoparticles perturb exocytosis, typically altering the number of molecules and kinetics of release, and supports a direct disruption of the vesicle matrix by the nanoparticle. Overall, it is clear that various nanoparticle physicochemical properties, including size and surface coating, do modulate changes in cellular communication via exocytosis.

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