Nanoparticle-mediated cellular response is size-dependent

Wen JiangBetty Y. S. Kim, James T. Rutka, Warren C. W. Chan 

Nature Nanotechnology volume 3, pages 145–150 (2008) | DOI:10.1038/nnano.2008.30


Nanostructures of different sizes, shapes and material properties have many applications in biomedical imaging, clinical diagnostics and therapeutics1–6. In spite of what has been achieved so far, a complete understanding of how cells interact with nanostructures of well-defined sizes, at the molecular level, remains poorly understood. Here we show that gold and silver nanoparticles coated with antibodies can regulate the process of membrane receptor internalization. The binding and activation of membrane receptors and subsequent protein expression strongly depend on nanoparticle size. Although all nanoparticles within the 2 –100 nm size range were found to alter signalling processes essential for basic cell functions (including cell death), 40- and 50-nm nanoparticles demonstrated the greatest effect. These results show that nanoparticles should no longer be viewed as simple carriers for biomedical applications, but can also play an active role in mediating biological effects. The findings presented here may assist in the design of nanoscale delivery and therapeutic systems and provide insights into nanotoxicity.