Leveraging Tunable Nanoparticle Surface Functionalization to Alter Cellular Migration

Maxwell G. Tetrick, Catherine J. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are a promising platform for biomedical applications including therapeutics, imaging, and drug delivery. While much of the literature surrounding the introduction of AuNPs into cellular systems focuses on uptake and cytotoxicity, less is understood about how AuNPs can indirectly affect cells via interactions with the extracellular environment. Previous work has shown that the monocytic cell line THP-1’s ability to undergo chemotaxis in response to a gradient of monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) was compromised by extracellular polysulfonated AuNPs, presumably by binding to MCP-1 with some preference over other proteins in the media. The hypothesis to be explored in this work is that the degree of sulfonation of the surface would therefore be correlated with the ability of AuNPs to interrupt chemotaxis. Highly sulfonated poly(styrenesulfonate)-coated AuNPs caused strong inhibition of THP-1 chemotaxis; by reducing the degree of sulfonation on the AuNP surface with copolymers [poly(styrenesulfonate-co-maleate) of different compositions], it was found that medium and low sulfonation levels caused weak to no inhibition, respectively. Small, rigid molecular sulfonate surfaces were relatively ineffective at chemotaxis inhibition. Unusually, free poly(styrenesulfonate) caused a dose-dependent reversal of THP-1 cell migration: at low concentrations, free poly(styrenesulfonate) significantly inhibited MCP-1-induced chemotaxis. However, at high concentrations, free poly(styrenesulfonate) acted as a chemorepellent, causing a reversal in the cell migration direction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-215
Number of pages11
JournalACS Nanoscience Au
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 19 2024


  • chemorepellent
  • chemotaxis
  • gold nanoparticles
  • protein adsorption
  • sulfonation
  • surface chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)


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