Some manufactured nanoparticles are metal-based and have a wide variety of applications in electronic, engineering and medicine. Until now, many studies have described the potential toxicity of NPs on pulmonary target, while little attention has been paid to kidney which is considered to be a secondary target organ. The objective of this study, on human renal culture cells, was to assess the toxicity profile of metallic nanoparticles (TiO2, ZnO and CdS) usable in industrial production. Comparative studies were conducted, to identify whether particle properties impact cytotoxicity by altering the intracellular oxidative status. Nanoparticles were first characterized by size, surface charge, dispersion and solubility. Cytotoxicity of NPs was then evaluated in IP15 (glomerular mesangial) and HK-2 (epithelial proximal) cell lines. ZnO and CdS NPs significantly increased the cell mortality, in a dose-dependent manner. Cytotoxic effects were correlated with the physicochemical properties of NPs tested and the cell type used. Analysis of reactive oxygen species and intracellular levels of reduced and oxidized glutathione revealed that particles induced stress according to their composition, size and solubility. Protein involved in oxidative stress such as NF-κb was activated with ZnO and CdS nanoparticles. Such effects were not observed with TiO2 nanoparticles. On glomerular and tubular human renal cells, ZnO and CdS nanoparticles exerted cytotoxic effects that were correlated with metal composition, particle scale and metal solubility. ROS production and oxidative stress induction clearly indicated their nephrotoxic potential.