Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) can be used in various biomedical applications, however, very little is known about their size-dependent in vivo kinetics. Here, we performed a kinetic study in mice with different sizes of PEG-coated AuNPs. Small AuNPs (4 or 13 nm) showed high levels in blood for 24 h and were cleared by 7 days, whereas large (100 nm) AuNPs were completely cleared by 24 h. All AuNPs in blood re-increased at 3 months, which correlated with organ levels. Levels of small AuNPs were peaked at 7 days in the liver and spleen and at 1 month in the mesenteric lymph node, and remained high until 6 months, with slow elimination. In contrast, large AuNPs were taken up rapidly (similar to 30 min) into the liver, spleen, and mesenteric lymph nodes with less elimination phase. TEM showed that AuNPs were entrapped in cytoplasmic vesicles and lysosomes of Kupffer cells and macrophages of spleen and mesenteric lymph node. Small AuNPs transiently activated CYP1A1 and 2B, phase I metabolic enzymes, in liver tissues from 24 h to 7 days, which mirrored with elevated gold levels in the liver. Large AuNPs did not affect the metabolic enzymes. Thus, propensity to accumulate in the reticuloendothelial organs and activation of phase I metabolic enzymes, suggest that extensive further studies are needed for practical in vivo applications. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.