Research Paper

Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 643-651

First online:

Cytotoxic and radiosensitizing effects of nano-C60 on tumor cells in vitro

  • Jin NiAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Medicine, Second Military Medical University
  • , Qiuye WuAffiliated withOrganic Chemistry Department, School of Pharmacy, Second Military Medical University
  • , Yuguo LiAffiliated withLab of Nanoscale Biomedicine Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • , Zhixin GuoAffiliated withInstitute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • , Gusheng TangAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Medicine, Second Military Medical University
  • , Ding SunAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Medicine, Second Military Medical University
  • , Fu GaoAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Medicine, Second Military Medical University
  • , Jianming CaiAffiliated withDepartment of Radiation Medicine, Second Military Medical University Email author 

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There is growing evidence in recent years that the pristine fullerene may be endowed with strong pro-oxidant capacity to biological samples. In this investigation we tested the hypothesis that water-soluble fullerene-C60 (nano-C60) may interact with ionizing radiation enhancing its antiproliferative effects. The two tumor cell lines with different radiosensitivity B16 and SMMU-7721 were treated by a combination of pristine fullerene and 60Co γ irradiation. We measured cell survival rates, apoptotic characteristics, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and alteration of cell diameter with or without γ-irradiation. There was reduced survival with B16 and SMMU-7721 cells exposed to nano-C60, with the inhibitory concentrations reducing the viability by 50% to 65 part per billion (ppb) and 150 ppb respectively. For cells exposed to nano-C60 prior to γ-irradiation, damage to cell membranes and increased numbers of apoptotic cells were detected by morphologic Hoechst-staining analysis and Annexin V/propidium iodide double-staining. In cells exposed to nano-C60, there were increased levels of ROS, as measured by fluorescence detection under laser confocal microscopy. Preincubation with non-toxic pristine C60 before γ-ray caused enlargement of cells with increased diameter. The results show that nano-C60 inhibits the growth of tumor cells at certain concentrations and increases the effects of 60Co γ-irradiation, possibly through the elevated production of cellular ROS and the membrane disruption. Data in this study indicates a possible consideration of using C60 as a candidate of sensitization modifier in tumor radiation biology.


Nano-C60 60Co γ-irradiation Cytotoxicity ROS Radiosensitization Nanomedicine Health implications