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J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2013 Feb;13(2):751-4.

UV-enhanced cytotoxicity of CdTe quantum dots in PANC-1 cells depend on their size distribution and surface modification.

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College of Material Science and Technology, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing 210016, China.


The cytotoxicity of quantum dots (QDs) under normal conditions has received more and more attention, but their cytotoxicity under light illumination has not been fully investigated. In this study, different sized CdTe QDs coated with mercaptopropionic acid (MPA) and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) were employed to investigate the influences of size distribution and surface modification on their UV-enhanced cytotoxicity and mechanism. The results indicated that different sized MPA-CdTe QDs exhibited distinct cytotoxicity under UV illumination and the smaller-sized QDs presented more obviously damages to cells than the larger-sized QDs. Comparing with MPA-CdTe QDs, NAC-CdTe QDs had better cellular metabolizability and lower cytotoxicity. The generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) were also investigated. The results revealed that ROS in cells containing MPA-CdTe QD538 were about 1.7 times of NAC-CdTe QD538 under UV illumination. ROS might play an important role in the UV-enhanced cytotoxicity of QDs. By selecting appropriate surface modifications and particle sizes, the cytotoxicity of QDs under UV illumination could be controlled.

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