Elucidating the Mechanism of Cellular Uptake and Removal of Protein-Coated Gold Nanoparticles of Different Sizes and Shapes

B. Devika Chithrani, Warren C. W. Chan

Nano Lett. 2007, 7, 6, 1542–1550 DOI.org/10.1021/nl070363y


We investigated the mechanism by which transferrin-coated gold nanoparticles (Au NP) of different sizes and shapes entered mammalian cells. We determined that transferrin-coated Au NP entered the cells via clathrin-mediated endocytosis pathway. The NPs exocytosed out of the cells in a linear relationship to size. This was different than the relationship between uptake and size. Furthermore, we developed a mathematical equation to predict the relationship of size versus exocytosis for different cell lines. These studies will provide guidelines for developing NPs for imaging and drug delivery applications, which will require “controlling” NP accumulation rate. These studies will also have implications in determining nanotoxicity.