Back to Journals » International Journal of Nanomedicine » Volume 14

MWCNT interactions with protein: surface-induced changes in protein adsorption and the impact of protein corona on cellular uptake and cytotoxicity

Authors Zhang T, Tang M, Yao Y, Ma Y, Pu Y

Received 22 October 2018

Accepted for publication 15 January 2019

Published 7 February 2019 Volume 2019:14 Pages 993—1009


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Cristina Weinberg

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Mian Wang

Ting Zhang,1,2 Meng Tang,1,2 Ying Yao,1 Ying Ma,1 Yuepu Pu1,2

1Key Laboratory of Environmental Medicine and Engineering, Ministry of Education, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health & Collaborative Innovation Center of Suzhou Nano Science and Technology Southeast University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, 210009, China; 2Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Biomaterials and Devices, Southeast University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, 210009, China

Purpose: Protein adsorption onto nanoparticles in the form of protein corona, affects properties of nanomaterials and their behavior in the biological milieu. This study aims at exploring the effects of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) surface chemistry on bovine serum albumin (BSA) and immunoglobulin G (IgG), including their adsorption behavior and spatial configurations, as well as the impact on cellular uptake, cytotoxicity, and cellular responses.
Methods: Three types of MWCNTs (pristine MWCNTs, MWCNTs-COOH, and MWCNTs-PEG) were synthesized by classical chemical reduction. The size, morphology, hydrodynamic size, and zeta potential were characterized using transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. MWCNTs were exposed to BSA and IgG solutions, then the amount of MWCNT absorption was performed by bicinchoninic acid assay, and the effects were assessed by utilizing fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy. Quantitative measurement of MWCNTs uptake with or without protein corona was performed as turbidity method. CCK assay and a microdilution method were performed to evaluate the effects of protein corona on cytotoxicity and pro-inflammatory cytokines release.
Results: The BSA and IgG adsorption capacities of MWCNTs followed the order pristine MWCNTs>MWCNTs-COOH and MWCNTs-PEG. MWCNT binding can cause fluorescence quenching and conformational changes in BSA and IgG, indicating that both the physicochemical properties of MWCNTs and protein properties play critical roles in determining their adsorption behavior. Further study showed time-dependent increases in MWCNT cellular uptake and internalization. Hydrophobicity is the major factor increasing cellular uptake of pristine MWCNTs, but a protein corona enriched with dysoposnins is the main factor reducing uptake of MWCNT-COOH by RAW264.7 cells. The cytotoxicity and pro-inflammatory response related to physicochemical properties of MWCNTs, and frustrated phagocytosis is a key initiating event in the pro-inflammatory response of MWCNT-exposed macrophages.
Conclusion: These findings shed light on how functionalized MWCNTs interact with protein coronas and provide useful insight into the dramatic effect of protein coronas on different functionalized MWCNTs. These events affect cellular uptake and cytotoxicity, which could inform how to enhance MWCNT biocompatibility and develop approaches for managing MWCNT hazards.

Keywords: multiwalled carbon nanotubes, protein corona, cellular uptake, cytotoxicity, inflammation

Creative Commons License This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Download Article [PDF]  View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]