Silica nanoparticles and biological dispersants: genotoxic effects on A549 lung epithelial cells

David M. Brown*, Julia Varet, Helinor Johnston, Alison Chrystie, Vicki Stone

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Silica nanoparticle exposure could be intentional (e.g. medical application or food) or accidental (e.g. occupational inhalation). On entering the body, particles become coated with specific proteins depending on the route of entry. The ability of silica particles of different size and charge (non-functionalized 50 and 200 nm and aminated 50 and 200 nm) to cause genotoxic effects in A549 lung epithelial cells was investigated. Using the modified comet assay and the micronucleus assay, we examined the effect of suspending the particles in different dispersion media [RPMI or Hanks’ balanced salt solution (HBSS), supplemented with bovine serum albumin (BSA), lung lining fluid (LLF) or serum] to determine if this influenced the particle’s activity. Particle characterisation suggested that the particles were reasonably well dispersed in the different media, with the exception of aminated 50 nm particles which showed evidence of agglomeration. Plain 50, 200 nm and aminated 50 nm particles caused significant genotoxic effects in the presence of formamidopyrimidine-DNA glycosylase when dispersed in HBSS or LLF. These effects were reduced when the particles were dispersed in BSA and serum. There was no significant micronucleus formation produced by any of the particles when suspended in any of the dispersants. The data suggest that silica particles can produce a significant genotoxic effect according to the comet assay in A549 cells, possibly driven by an oxidative stress-dependent mechanism which may be modified depending on the choice of dispersant employed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number410
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
    Issue number10
    Early online date16 Oct 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


    • A549
    • Colloids
    • Dispersant
    • Environmental and health issues
    • Genotoxicity
    • Lung lining fluid
    • Nanoparticles

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
    • Condensed Matter Physics
    • Modelling and Simulation
    • General Chemistry
    • General Materials Science
    • Bioengineering


    Dive into the research topics of 'Silica nanoparticles and biological dispersants: genotoxic effects on A549 lung epithelial cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this