Size-dependent characteristics of novel engineered nanomaterials might result in unforeseen biological responses and toxicity. To address this issue, we used cDNA microarray analysis (13443 genes) coupled with bioinformatics and functional gene annotation studies to investigate the transcriptional profiles of Balb/3T3 cells exposed to a low dose (1 μM) of cobalt nanoparticles (CoNP), microparticles (CoMP) and ions (Co2+). CoNP, CoMP and Co2+ affected 124, 91 and 80 genes, respectively. Hierarchical clustering revealed two main gene clusters, one up-regulated, mainly after Co2+, the other down-regulated, mainly after CoNP and CoMP. The significant Gene Ontology (GO) terms included oxygen binding and transport and hemoglobin binding for Co2+, while the GOs of CoMP and CoNP were related to nucleus and intracellular components. Pathway analysis highlighted: i) mitochondrial dysfunction for Co2+, ii) signaling, activation of innate immunity, and apoptosis for CoNP, and iii) cell metabolism, G1/S cell cycle checkpoint regulation and signaling for CoMP. Unlike ions, particles affected toxicologically-relevant pathways implicated in carcinogenesis and inflammation.