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Issue 6, 2011
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Cytotoxicity of InP/ZnS quantum dots related to reactive oxygen species generation

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Abstract

Indium phosphide (InP) quantum dots (QDs) have emerged as a presumably less hazardous alternative to cadmium-based particles, but their cytotoxicity has not been well examined. Although their constituent elements are of very low toxicity to cells in culture, they nonetheless exhibit phototoxicity related to generation of reactive oxygen species by excited electrons and/or holes interacting with water and molecular oxygen. Using spin-trap electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy and reporter assays, we find a considerable amount of superoxide and a small amount of hydroxyl radical formed under visible illumination of biocompatible InP QDs with a single ZnS shell, comparable to what is seen with CdTe. A double thickness shell reduces the reactive oxygen species concentration approximately two-fold. Survival assays in five cell lines correspondingly indicate a distinct reduction in toxicity with the double-shell InP QDs. Toxicity varies significantly across cell lines according to the efficiency of uptake, being overall significantly less than what is seen with CdTe or CdSe/ZnS. This indicates that InP QDs are a useful alternative to cadmium-containing QDs, while remaining capable of electron-transfer processes that may be undesirable or which may be exploited for photosensitization applications.

Graphical abstract: Cytotoxicity of InP/ZnS quantum dots related to reactive oxygen species generation

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Publication details

The article was received on 04 Feb 2011, accepted on 17 Mar 2011 and first published on 21 Apr 2011


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C1NR10131E
Citation: Nanoscale, 2011,3, 2552-2559
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    Cytotoxicity of InP/ZnS quantum dots related to reactive oxygen species generation

    H. Chibli, L. Carlini, S. Park, N. M. Dimitrijevic and J. L. Nadeau, Nanoscale, 2011, 3, 2552
    DOI: 10.1039/C1NR10131E

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