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R Soc Open Sci. 2017 Sep 13;4(9):170480. doi: 10.1098/rsos.170480. eCollection 2017 Sep.

Facilitation of trace metal uptake in cells by inulin coating of metallic nanoparticles.

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Departamento de Ingeniería Química, Ambiental y de Alimentos, Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Puebla, Mexico.
Departamento de Ciencias Químico-Biológicas, Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Puebla, Mexico.
Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California-Davis, Bodega Bay, CA, USA.
School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing, People's Republic of China.
Departments of Environmental Toxicology and Nutrition, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, USA.


Trace elements such as zinc and iron are essential for the proper function of biochemical processes, and their uptake and bioavailability are dependent on their chemical form. Supplementation of trace metals through nanostructured materials is a new field, but its application raises concerns regarding their toxicity. Here, we compared the intracellular zinc uptake of different sources of zinc: zinc sulfate, and ZnO and core-shell α-Fe2O3@ZnO nanoparticles, coated or uncoated with inulin, an edible and biocompatible polysaccharide. Using mussel haemocytes, a well-known model system to assess nanomaterial toxicity, we simultaneously assessed zinc accumulation and multiple cellular response endpoints. We found that intracellular zinc uptake was strongly enhanced by inulin coating, in comparison to the uncoated nanoparticles, while no significant effects on cell death, cell viability, mitochondrial membrane integrity, production of reactive oxygen species or lysosome abundance were observed at concentrations up to 20 ppm. Since no significant increments in toxicity were observed, the coated nanomaterials may be useful to increase in vivo zinc uptake for nutritional applications.


food fortification; inulin coating; mussel haemocytes; nanotoxicity; zinc oxide nanoparticles

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