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Copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs) are used increasingly in industrial applications and consumer products and thus may pose risk to human and environmental health. The interaction of CuO NPs with complex media and the impact on cell metabolism when exposed to sublethal concentrations are largely unknown. In the present study, the short-term effects of 2 different sized manufactured CuO NPs on metabolic activity of Saccharomyces cerevisiae were studied. The role of released Cu2+ during dissolution of NPs in the growth media and the CuO nanostructure were considered. Characterization showed that the 28 nm and 64 nm CuO NPs used in the present study have different primary diameter, similar hydrodynamic diameter, and significantly different concentrations of dissolved Cu2+ ions in the growth media released from the same initial NP mass. Exposures to CuO NPs or the released Cu2+ fraction, at doses that do not have impact on cell viability, showed significant inhibition on S. cerevisiae cellular metabolic activity. A greater CuO NP effect on the metabolic activity of S. cerevisiae growth under respiring conditions was observed. Under the tested conditions the observed metabolic inhibition from the NPs was not explained fully by the released Cu ions from the dissolving NPs.