ZnO nanoparticles (nZnO) are commonly used in nanotechnology applications despite their demonstrated cytotoxicity against multiple cell types. This underscores the significant need to determine the physicochemical properties that influence nZnO cytotoxicity. In this study, we analyzed six similarly sized nZnO formulations, along with SiO2-coated nZnO, bulk ZnO and ZnSO4 as controls. Four of the nZnO samples were synthesized using various wet chemical methods, while three employed high-temperature flame spray pyrolysis (FSP) techniques. X-ray diffraction and optical analysis demonstrated the lattice parameters and electron band gap of the seven nZnO formulations were similar. However, zeta potential measures, hydrodynamic size, photocatalytic rate constants, dissolution potential, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and, more importantly, the cytotoxicity of the variously synthesized nZnO towards Jurkat leukemic and primary CD4+ T cells displayed major differences. Surface structure analysis using FTIR, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies (XPS) and dynamic light scattering (DLS) revealed significant differences in the surface-bound chemical groups and the agglomeration tendencies of the samples. The wet chemical nZnO, with higher cationic surface charge, faster photocatalytic rates, increased extracellular dissolution and ROS generation demonstrated greater cytotoxicity towards both cell types than those made with FSP techniques. Furthermore, principal component analysis (PCA) suggests that the synthesis procedure employed influences which physicochemical properties contribute more to the cytotoxic response. These results suggest that the synthesis approach results in unique surface chemistries and can be a determinant of cellular cytotoxicity and oxidative stress responses.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/denise_wingett/24/