Can graphene quantum dots cause DNA damage in cells?†
Graphene quantum dots (GQDs) have attracted tremendous attention for biological applications. We report the first study on cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of GQDs to fibroblast cell lines (NIH-3T3 cells). The NIH-3T3 cells treated with GQDs at dosages over 50 μg mL−1 showed no significant cytotoxicity. However, the GQD-treated NIH-3T3 cells exhibited an increased expression of proteins (p53, Rad 51, and OGG1) related to DNA damage compared with untreated cells, indicating the DNA damage caused by GQDs. The GQD-induced release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was demonstrated to be responsible for the observed DNA damage. These findings should have important implications for future applications of GQDs in biological systems.