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Role of surface charge in determining the biological effects of CdSe/ZnS quantum dots

Authors Liu Q, Li H, Xia Q, Liu Y, Xiao K

Received 16 August 2015

Accepted for publication 5 October 2015

Published 16 November 2015 Volume 2015:10(1) Pages 7073—7088


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Lei Yang

Qiangqiang Liu,1,* Hongxia Li,1,* Qiyue Xia,1 Ying Liu,1 Kai Xiao,1,2

1National Chengdu Center for Safety Evaluation of Drugs, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, Collaborative Innovation Center for Biotherapy, West China Hospital, 2Laboratory of Non-Human Primate Disease Model Research, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, Collaborative Innovation Center for Biotherapy, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, People’s Republic of China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Abstract: The growing potential of quantum dots (QDs) in biomedical applications has provoked the urgent need to thoroughly address their interaction with biological systems. However, only limited studies have been performed to explore the effects of surface charge on the biological behaviors of QDs. In the present study, three commercially available QDs with different surface coatings were used to systematically evaluate the effects of surface charge on the cellular uptake, cytotoxicity, and in vivo biodistribution of QDs. Our results demonstrated that charged QDs entered both cancer cells and macrophages more efficiently than neutral ones, while negative QDs internalized mostly. Upon entry into cells, QDs were localized in different subcellular compartments (eg, cytoplasm and lysosomes) depending on the surface charge. Interestingly, inconsistent with the result of internalization, positive QDs but not negative QDs exhibited severe cytotoxicity, which was likely due to their disruption of cell membrane integrity, and production of reactive oxygen species. Biodistribution studies demonstrated that negative and neutral QDs preferentially distributed in the liver and the spleen, whereas positive QDs mainly deposited in the kidney with obvious uptake in the brain. In general, surface charge plays crucial roles in determining the biological interactions of QDs.

Keywords: cellular uptake, uptake pathways, intracellular distribution, reactive oxygen species, cytotoxicity, biodistribution

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