Cytotoxicity of cuprous oxide nanoparticles to fish blood cells: hemolysis and internalization

Research Paper


Cuprous oxide nanoparticles (Cu2O NPs) possess unique physical and chemical properties which are employed in a broad variety of applications. However, little is known about the adverse effects of Cu2O NPs on organisms. In the current study, in vitro cytotoxicity of Cu2O NPs (ca. 60 nm in diameter) to the blood cells of freshwater fish Carassius auratus was evaluated. A concentration-dependent hemolytic activity of Cu2O NPs to red blood cells (RBCs) and the phagocytosis of Cu2O NPs by leukocytes were revealed. The results showed that dosages of Cu2O NPs greater than 40 μg/mL were toxic to blood cells, and could cause serious membrane damage to RBCs. The EC50 value of Cu2O NPs as obtained from RBCs and whole blood exposure was 26 and 63 μg/mL, respectively. The generation of reactive oxygen species and the direct interaction between Cu2O NPs and the cell membrane were suggested as the possible mechanism for cytotoxicity, and the intrinsic hemolytic active of Cu2O NPs was the main contributor to the toxicity rather than solubilized copper ions. The adsorption of plasma proteins on the surfaces of Cu2O NPs led to their aggregation in whole blood, and aggregate formation can significantly alleviate the hemolytic effect and subsequently mediate the phagocytosis of Cu2O NPs by leukocytes.


Cuprous oxide nanoparticles Toxicity Hemolytic behavior Phagocytosis Blood cells 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (U0936602), the Doctoral Program Foundation of Institutions of Higher Education of China (20115301120002), the National Key Technology R&D Program of China (2011BAC09B07), and the Yunnan provincial Foundation for Basic Science (2011FB007) and Education (2011Y107) of China.

Supplementary material

11051_2013_1507_MOESM1_ESM.doc (331 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 331 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Asian International Rivers Center, Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Trans-boundary Eco-securityYunnan UniversityKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringYunnan UniversityKunmingPeople’s Republic of China

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