Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Cytotoxicity of zinc nanoparticles fabricated by Justicia adhatoda L. on root tips of Allium cepa L.—a model approach


Zinc nanoparticles were synthesized using aqueous leaf extract of Justicia adhatoda L. The characterization of nanoparticles was done by ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy (AFM), and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM). The characteristic absorption peak of the UV spectrum was recorded at 379 nm. The FTIR data revealed the possible biomolecules involved in bioreduction and capping of zinc nanoparticles for efficient stabilization. AFM and HR-TEM images have shown that the size of zinc nanoparticles ranges from 55 to 83 nm and they are spherical in shape. The biogenic zinc nanoparticles were evaluated for their toxic effect on mitotic chromosomes of Allium cepa as a model system. Experiments were conducted in triplicate to assay the effect of 25, 50, 75, and 100 % of zinc nanoparticles on mitotic chromosomes at an interval of 6 h duration for 24 h. The investigation revealed that the mitotic index (MI) was decreased with increased concentration of zinc nanoparticles and exposure duration. The results revealed that zinc nanoparticles have induced abnormalities like anaphase bridge formation, diagonal anaphase, C-metaphase, sticky metaphase, laggards, and sticky anaphase at different percentages and times of exposure. It is evident from the observation that mitotic cell division becomes abortive at 100 % treatment of zinc nanoparticles.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7


  1. Albrecht MA, Evan CW, Raston CL (2006) Green chemistry and the health implication of nanoparticles. Green Chem 8:417–432

  2. Becheri A, Durr M, Nastro PL, Baglioni P (2008) Synthesis and characterization of zinc oxide nanoparticles: application to textiles as UV-absorbers. J Nanoparticle Res 10:679–689

  3. Bennett VH, Victoria WJ, Santos H (2006) Role of mitochondrial DNA in toxic responses to oxidative stress. DNA Repair (Amst) 5(2):145–152

  4. Borboa L, Dela Torre C (1996) The genotoxicity of Zn(II) and Cd(II) in Allium cepa root meristematic cells. New Phytol 134:481–486

  5. Brayner R, Ferrari-lliou R, Brivois DN, Benedetti MF, Fievet F (2006) Toxicological impact studies based on Escherichia coli bacteria in ultrafine ZnO nanoparticles colloidal medium. Nano Lett 6:866–870

  6. Deysson G, Bournce GH, Danielli JF (1968) Antimitotic substances. In: International review of cytology (Ed.), Academic Press, New York and London. 24:99–148

  7. Duan CQ, Wang HX (1995) Cytogenetical toxical effects of heavy metals on Vicia faba and inquires into the Vicia-micronucleus. Acta Bot Sin 37:14–24

  8. Fiskesjo G (1985) The Allium test as a standard environmental monitoring. Heredity 102:99–112

  9. Franklin NM, Rogers NJ, Apte SC, Batley GE, Gadd GE, Casey PS (2007) Comparative toxicity of nanoparticulate ZnO, bulk ZnO, and ZnCl2 to freshwater micro alga Pseudokirchneriella subcapitata: the importance of particle solubility. Environ Sci Technol 41:8484–8490

  10. Gokak IB, Taranath TC (2014a) Phytosynthesis of silver nanoparticles using leaf extract of Wattakaka volublis (L.F.) Stapf., and their antibacterial activity. Int J Sci Env Tech 3:93–99

  11. Gokak IB, Taranath TC (2014b) Cansjera rheedii J. F. Gmel. a medicinal plant-mediated synthesis of silver nanoparticles and their antibacterial activity. Int J Sci Eng Technol 3(3):293–296

  12. Grant WF (1982) Chromosome aberrations assays in Allium—a report of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gene-Tox Program. Mut Res 99:273–291

  13. Heinlaan M, Ivask A, Blinova I, Dubourguier HC, Kahru A (2008) Toxicity of nanosized and bulk ZnO, CuO and TiO2 to bacteria Vibrio fischeri and crustaceans Daphnia magna and Thamnocephalus platyurus. Chemosphere 71:1308–1316

  14. Hideo T, Nobuo T (1990) Autopolyploid formation of Trichoderma reesei QM9414 by colchicine treatment. J Ferment Bioeng 69(1):51–53

  15. Hulkoti NI, Taranath TC (2014) Biosynthesis of nanoparticles using microbes—a review. Colloids Surf B: Biointerfaces 121:474–483

  16. Khodakovskaya M, Dervishi E, Mahmood M, Xu Y, Li Z, Watanabe F, Biris AS (2009) Carbon nanotubes are able to penetrate plant seed coat and dramatically affect seed germination and plant growth. ACS Nano 3:3221–3227

  17. Kihlman BA (1974) Principle and method of their detection. In: Hollaender A (ed) Chemical mutagens. Plenum Press, New York, p 489

  18. Kong MH, Ma TH (1999) Genotoxicity of contaminated soil and shallow well water detected by plant bioassays. Mutat Res 426:221–228

  19. Kumar A, Pandey AK, Singh SS, Shanker R, Dhawan A (2011a) Cellular uptake and mutagenic potential of metal oxide nanoparticles in bacterial cells. Chemosphere 83:1124–1132

  20. Kumar A, Pandey AK, Singh SS, Shanker R, Dhawan A (2011b) Engineered ZnO and TiO2 nanoparticles induce oxidative stress and DNA damage leading to reduced viability of Escherichia coli. Free Radic Biol Med 51:1872–188

  21. Kumari M, Mukherjee A, Chandrasekaran N (2009) Genotoxicity of silver nanoparticles in Allium cepa. Sci Total Environ 407:5243–5246

  22. Kuriyama R, Sakai H (1974) Role of tubulin-SH group in polymerization to microtubules. J Biochem 76:651–654

  23. Lin D, Xing B (2008) Root uptake and phytotoxicity of ZnO nanoparticles. Environ Sci Technol 42:5580–5585

  24. Lin WS, Xu Y, Huang CC, Ma YF, Shannon KB, Chen DR, Huang YW (2009) Toxicity of nano-and micro-sized ZnO particles in human lung epithelial cells. J Nanoparticle Res 11:25–39

  25. Liu DH, Jiang WS, Wang CL (1996) Effect of Zn2+ on root growth, cell division and nucleoli of Allium cepa L. J Environ Sci 8:21–27

  26. Meulenkamp EA (1998) Synthesis and growth of ZnO nanoparticles. J Phys Chem B 102:5566–5572

  27. Mousa M (1982) Mitoinhibition and chromosomal aberrations induced by some herbicide in root tips of A. cepa. Egypt J Genet Cytol 11:193–207

  28. Mukherjee A, Dhir H, Sharma A (1990) Interaction between essential elements—zinc and iron and metal pollutants—cadmium and lead on cell division and chromosome aberrations in Valhisneria spiralis L. Cytologia 55:405–410

  29. Murphy MP (2009) How mitochondria produce reactive oxygen species. Biochem J 417:1–13

  30. Naik RR, Stone MO (2005) Integrating biomimetics. Mat Today 8:18–26

  31. Nam SH, Kim SW, An YJ (2013) No evidence of the genotoxic potential of gold, silver, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles in the SOS chromotest. J Appl Toxicol 33:1061–1069

  32. Osterberg R, Persson D, Bjursell G (1984) The condensation of DNA by chromium (III) ions. J Biomol Struct Dyn 2:285–290

  33. Rijstenbil JW, Poortvliet TCW (1992) Copper and zinc in estuarine water: chemical speciation in relation to bioavailability to the marine planktonic diatom Ditylum brightwellii. Environ Toxicol Chem 11:1615–1625

  34. Sahi AN, Singh RN (1996) Fly-ash induced chromosomal aberrations in Allium cepa. Cytobios 86:23–28

  35. Serpone N, Dondi D, Albini A (2007) Inorganic and organic UV filters: their role and efficacy in sunscreens and suncare product. Inorg Chim Acta 360:794–802

  36. Sharma V, Shukla RK, Saxena N, Parmar D, Das M, Dhawan A (2009) DNA damaging potential of zinc oxide nanoparticles in human epidermal cells. Toxicol Lett 185:211–218

  37. Shaymurat T, Jianxiu G, Changshan X, Zhikun Y, Qing Z, Yuxue L, Yichun L (2011) Phytotoxic and genotoxic effects of ZnO nanoparticles on garlic (Allium sativumL.): a morphological study. Nanotoxicology 1–8

  38. Shen CX, Zhang QF, Li J, Bi FC, Yao N (2010) Induction of programmed cell death in Arabidopsis and rice by single-wall carbon nanotubes. Am J Bot 97:1–8

  39. Stampoulis D, Sinha SK, White JC (2009) Assay-dependent phytotoxicity of nanoparticles to plants. Environ Sci Technol 43:9473–9479

  40. Von Rosen C (1954) Breaking of chromosome by the action of element of the periodical system and by some other principle. Hereditas 40:258–263

  41. Wang B, Feng W, Wang M, Wang TC, Gu YQ, Zhu MT, Ouyang H, Shi JW, Zhang F, Zhao YL (2008) Acute toxicological impact of nano- and submicro-scaled zinc oxide powder on healthy adult mice. J Nanoparticle Res 10:263–276

Download references


The authors thank the Chairman, P.G. Department of Studies in Botany, Karnatak University, Dharwad, for providing necessary facilities and University Grant Commission, New Delhi, India, for financial assistance under the UGC- SAP-DRS-III program. The authors also thank USIC, K.U.D., for necessary instrument facility.

Author information

Correspondence to T. C. Taranath.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Taranath, T.C., Patil, B.N., Santosh, T.U. et al. Cytotoxicity of zinc nanoparticles fabricated by Justicia adhatoda L. on root tips of Allium cepa L.—a model approach. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 8611–8617 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-014-4043-9

Download citation


  • Zinc nanoparticles
  • Biosynthesis
  • Mitotic index
  • Chromosomal aberration
  • Justicia adhatoda L.