Evaluating the uptake and intracellular fate of polystyrene nanoparticles by primary and hepatocyte cell lines in vitro

Helinor J Johnston, Manuela Semmler-Behnke, David M Brown, Wolfgang Kreyling, Lang Tran, Vicki Stone

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    175 Citations (Scopus)


    Nanoparticles (NPs) are being used within diverse applications such as medicines, clothing, cosmetics and food. In order to promote the safe development of such nanotechnologies it is essential to assess the potential adverse health consequences associated with human exposure. The liver is recognised as a target site for NP toxicity, due to NP accumulation within this organ subsequent to injection, inhalation or instillation. The uptake of fluorescent polystyrene carboxylated particles (20 nm or 200 nm diameter) by hepatocytes was determined using confocal microscopy; with cells imaged "live" during particle exposure or after exposure within fixed cells. Comparisons between the uptake of polystyrene particles by primary rat hepatocytes, and human hepatocyte cell lines (C3A and HepG2) were made. Uptake of particles by hepatocytes was size, time, and serum dependent. Specifically, the uptake of 200 nm particles was limited, but 20 nm NPs were internalised by all cell types from 10 min onwards. At 10 min, 20 nm NP fluorescence co-localised with the tubulin cytoskeleton staining; after 30 min NP fluorescence compartmentalised into structures located within and/or between cells. The fate of internalised NPs was considered and they were not contained within early endosomes or lysosomes, but within mitochondria of cell lines. NPs accumulated within bile canaliculi to a limited extent, which suggests that NPs can be eliminated within bile. This is in keeping with the finding that gold NPs were eliminated in bile following intravenous injection into rats. The findings were, in the main, comparable between primary rat hepatocytes and the different human hepatocyte cell lines.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)66-78
    Number of pages13
    JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


    • Hepatocytes
    • Nanoparticle
    • Polystyrene
    • Gold
    • Liver
    • Uptake


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