Use of Synchrotron Radiation-Analytical Techniques to Reveal Chemical Origin of Silver-Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity

Liming Wang, Tianlu Zhang, Panyun Li, Wanxia Huang, Jinglong Tang, Pengyang Wang, Jing Liu, Qingxi Yuan, Ru Bai, Bai Li, Kai Zhang, Yuliang Zhao, Chunying Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Scopus citations


To predict potential medical value or toxicity of nanoparticles (NPs), it is necessary to understand the chemical transformation during intracellular processes of NPs. However, it is a grand challenge to capture a high-resolution image of metallic NPs in a single cell and the chemical information on intracellular NPs. Here, by integrating synchrotron radiation-beam transmission X-ray microscopy (SR-TXM) and SR-X-ray absorption near edge structure (SR-XANES) spectroscopy, we successfully capture the 3D distribution of silver NPs (AgNPs) inside a single human monocyte (THP-1), associated with the chemical transformation of silver. The results reveal that the cytotoxicity of AgNPs is largely due to the chemical transformation of particulate silver from elemental silver (Ag0)n, to Ag+ ions and Ag-O-, then Ag-S- species. These results provide direct evidence in the long-lasting debate on whether the nanoscale or the ionic form dominates the cytotoxicity of silver nanoparticles. Further, the present approach provides an integrated strategy capable of exploring the chemical origins of cytotoxicity in metallic nanoparticles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6532-6547
Number of pages16
JournalACS Nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 23 2015


  • AgNPs
  • chemical origin
  • chemical transformation
  • dynamic processes of intracellular nanoparticles
  • nano-CT
  • nanotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of Synchrotron Radiation-Analytical Techniques to Reveal Chemical Origin of Silver-Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this