Cu-based nanoparticle toxicity to zebrafish cells regulated by cellular discharges

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number118296
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Pollution
Online published7 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


Cellular transport of metal nanoparticles (NPs) is critical in determining their potential toxicity, but the transformation of metal ions released from the internalized NPs is largely unknown. Cu-based NPs are the only metallic-based NPs that are reported to induce higher toxicity compared with their corresponding ions, likely due to their unique cellular turnover. In the present study, we developed a novel gold core to differentiate the particulate and ionic Cu in the Cu2O microparticles (MPs), and the kinetics of bioaccumulation, exocytosis, and cytotoxicity of Au@Cu2O MPs to zebrafish embryonic cells were subsequently studied. We demonstrated that the internalized MPs were rapidly dissolved to Cu ions, which then undergo lysosome-mediated exocytosis. The uptake rate of smaller MPs (130 nm) was lower than that of larger ones (200 nm), but smaller MPs were dissolved much quickly in cells and therefore activated the exocytosis more quickly. The rapid release of Cu ions resulted in an immediate toxic action of Cu2O MPs, while the cell deaths mainly occurred by necrosis. During this process, the buffering ability of glutathione greatly alleviated the Cu toxicity. Therefore, although the turnover of intracellular Cu at a sublethal exposure level was hundred times faster than the basal values, labile Cu(I) concentration increased by only 2 times at most. Overall, this work provided new insights into the toxicity of copper NPs, suggesting that tolerance to Cu-based NPs depended on their ability to discharge the released Cu ions.

Research Area(s)

  • Accumulation, Copper homeostasis, Glutathione, Lysosome exocytosis, Nanoparticles, Toxicity