Nuclear Targeted Silver Nanospheres Perturb the Cancer Cell Cycle Differently than Those of Nanogold

Plasmonic nanoparticle research has become increasingly active due to potential uses in biomedical applications. However, little is known about the intracellular effects these nanoparticles have on mammalian cells. The aim of this work is to investigate whether silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) conjugated with nuclear and cytoplasmic targeting peptides exhibit the same intracellular effects on cancer cells as peptide-conjugated gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). Nuclear and cytoplasmic targeting spherical AgNPs with a diameter of 35 nm were incubated in a cancer (HSC-3) and healthy (HaCat) cell line. By utilizing flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, and real-time dark field imaging, we were able to analyze how targeting AgNPs affect the cell cycle and cell division. These experiments demonstrated that nuclear-targeting AgNPs cause DNA double-strand breaks and a subsequent increase in the sub G1 (apoptotic) population in our cancer cell model at much lower concentrations than previously reported for nuclear targeting AuNPs. Unlike the M phase accumulation seen in cancer cells treated with AuNPs, an accumulation in the G2 phase of the cell cycle was observed in both cell models when treated with AgNPs. Additionally, real-time dark field imaging showed that cancer cells treated with nuclear targeting AgNPs did not undergo cell division and ultimately underwent programmed cell death. A possible explanation of the observed results is discussed in terms of the chemical properties of the nanoparticles.