Cytotoxic origin of copper(II) oxide nanoparticles: Comparative studies with micron-sized particles, leachate, and metal salts

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Journal Article
ACS Nano, 2011, 5 (9), pp. 7214 - 7225
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The work investigates the source of toxicity of copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs) with respect to its leaching characteristic and speciation. Complexation-mediated leaching of CuO NPs by amino acids was identified as the source of toxicity toward Escherichia coli, the model microorganism used in the current study. The leached copper-peptide complex induces a multiple-fold increase in intracellular reactive oxygen species generation and reduces the fractions of viable cells, resulting in the overall inhibition of biomass growth. The cytotoxicity of the complex leachate is however different from that of equivalent soluble copper salts (nitrates and sulfates). A pH-dependent copper speciation during the addition of copper salts gives rise to uncoordinated copper ions, which in turn result in greater toxicity and cell lysis, the latter of which was not observed for CuO NPs even at comparable pH. Since leaching did not occur with micrometer-sized CuO, no cytotoxicty effect was observed, thus highlighting the prominence of materials toxicity at the nanoscale. © 2011 American Chemical Society.
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