Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) possess unique properties that have been exploited in several medical applications. However, a more comprehensive understanding of the environmental safety of AuNPs is imperative for use of these nanomaterials. Here, we describe the impacts of AuNPs in various mammalian cell models using an automatic and dye-free method for continuous monitoring of cell growth based on the measurement of cell impedance. Several well-established cytotoxicity assays were also used for comparison. AuNPs induced a concentration-dependent decrease in cell growth. This inhibitory effect was associated with apoptosis induction in Vero cells but not in MRC-5 or NIH3T3 cells. Interestingly, cDNA microarray analyses in MRC-5 cells supported the involvement of DNA damage and repair responses, cell-cycle regulation, and oxidative stress in AuNP-induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity. Moreover, autophagy appeared to play a role in AuNPs-induced attenuation of cell growth in NIH3T3 cells. In this study, we present a comprehensive overview of AuNP-induced cytotoxicity in a variety of mammalian cell lines, comparing several cytotoxicity assays. Collectively, these assays offer convincing evidence of the cytotoxicity of AuNPs and support the value of a systematic approach for analyzing the toxicology of nanoparticles
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