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Keywords:

  • polyamidoamine dendrimer;
  • ecotoxicology;
  • nanotoxicology;
  • gold nanoparticles;
  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii;
  • Vibrio fischeri;
  • mammalian cell lines

Polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers are used for many pharmaceutical and biomedical applications. However, the toxicological risks of several PAMAM-based compounds are still not fully evaluated, despite evidences of PAMAM deleterious effects on biological membranes, leading to toxicity. In this report, we investigated the toxicity of generation 0 PAMAM-coated gold nanoparticles (AuG0 NPs) in four different models to determine how different cellular systems are affected by PAMAM-coated NPs. Toxicity was evaluated in two mammalian cell lines, Neuro 2A and Vero, in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and the bacteria Vibrio fischeri. AuG0 NP treatments reduced cell metabolic activity in algal and bacterial cells, measured by esterase enzymatic activity (C. reinhardtii) and luminescence emission (V. fischeri). EC50 value after 30 min of treatment was similar in both organisms, with 0.114 and 0.167 mg mL−1 for C. reinhardtii and V. fischeri, respectively. On the other hand, AuG0 NPs induced no change of mitochondrial activity in mammalian cells after 24 h of treatment to up to 0.4 mg mL−1 AuG0 NPs. Change in the absorption spectra of AuG0 NP in the mammalian cell culture media may indicate an alteration of NP properties that contributed to the low toxicity of AuG0 NPs in mammalian cells. For a safe development of PAMAM-based nanomaterials, the difference of sensitivity between mammalian and microbial cells, as well as the modulation of NPs toxicity by medium properties, should be taken into account when designing PAMAM NPs for applications that may lead to their introduction in the environment. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 328–336, 2014.