Important questions raised in (nano)ecotoxicology are whether biodistribution of nanoparticles (NPs) is affected by particle shape and to what extent local adverse responses are subsequently initiated. For nanomedicine, these same questions become important when the labeled NPs lose the labeling. In this study, we investigated the biodistribution patterns of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) as well as immune-related local and systemic sublethal markers of exposure and behavioral assessment. Hatched zebrafish embryos were exposed to four differently shaped non-coated AuNPs with comparable sizes: nanospheres, nanorods, nano-urchins, and nanobipyramids. Shape-dependent trafficking of the particles resulted in a different distribution of the particles over the target organs. The differences across the distribution patterns indicate that the particles behave slightly different, although they eventually reach the same target organs – yet in different ratios. Mainly local induction of the immune system was observed, whereas systemic immune responses were not clearly visible. Macrophages were found to take AuNPs from the body fluid, be transferred into the veins and transported to digestive organs for clearance. No significant behavioral toxicological responses in zebrafish embryos were observed after exposure. The trafficking of the particles in the macrophages indicates that the particles are removed via the mononuclear phagocytic system. The different ratios in which the particles are distributed over the target organs indicate that the shape influences their behavior and eventually possibly the toxicity of the particles. The observed shape-dependent biodistribution patterns might be beneficial for shape-specific targeting in nanomedicine and stress the importance of incorporating shape-features in nanosafety assessment.
- Open Access