Tissue distribution and excretion kinetics of orally administered silica nanoparticles in rats

Jeong A. Lee, Mi Kyung Kim, Hee Jeong Paek, Yu Ri Kim, Meyoung Kon Kim, Jong Kwon Lee, Jayoung Jeong, Soo Jin Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The effects of particle size on the tissue distribution and excretion kinetics of silica nanoparticles and their biological fates were investigated following a single oral administration to male and female rats. Methods: Silica nanoparticles of two different sizes (20 nm and 100 nm) were orally administered to male and female rats, respectively. Tissue distribution kinetics, excretion profiles, and fates in tissues were analyzed using elemental analysis and transmission electron microscopy. Results: The differently sized silica nanoparticles mainly distributed to kidneys and liver for 3 days post-administration and, to some extent, to lungs and spleen for 2 days post-administration, regardless of particle size or sex. Transmission electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy studies in tissues demonstrated almost intact particles in liver, but partially decomposed particles with an irregular morphology were found in kidneys, especially in rats that had been administered 20 nm nanoparticles. Size-dependent excretion kinetics were apparent and the smaller 20 nm particles were found to be more rapidly eliminated than the larger 100 nm particles. Elimination profiles showed 7%–8% of silica nanoparticles were excreted via urine, but most nanoparticles were excreted via feces, regardless of particle size or sex. Conclusion: The kidneys, liver, lungs, and spleen were found to be the target organs of orally-administered silica nanoparticles in rats, and this organ distribution was not affected by particle size or animal sex. In vivo, silica nanoparticles were found to retain their particulate form, although more decomposition was observed in kidneys, especially for 20 nm particles. Urinary and fecal excretion pathways were determined to play roles in the elimination of silica nanoparticles, but 20 nm particles were secreted more rapidly, presumably because they are more easily decomposed. These findings will be of interest to those seeking to predict potential toxicological effects of silica nanoparticles on target organs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-260
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nanomedicine
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Dec 15
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Lee et al.


  • Biological fate
  • Size effect
  • Target organ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Organic Chemistry


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