Tuning cellular response to nanoparticles via surface chemistry and aggregation

Jie An Yang, Samuel E. Lohse, Catherine J. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aggregation of gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) in cell media is a common phenomenon that can influence NP-cell interactions. Here, we control Au NP aggregation in cell media and study the impact of Au NP aggregation on human dermal fibroblast (HDF) cells. By first adding Au NPs to fetal bovine serum (FBS) and then subsequently to a buffer, aggregation can be avoided. Aggregation of Au NPs also can be avoided by coating Au NPs with other biomolecules such as lipids. The aggregation state of the Au NPs influences cellular toxicity and Au NP uptake: non-aggregated cationic Au NPs are four-fold less toxic to HDF cells than aggregated cationic Au NPs, and the uptake of non-aggregated anionic citrate Au NPs is three orders of magnitude less than that of aggregated citrate Au NPs. Upon uptake of Au NPs, cellular F-actin fiber formation is disrupted and actin dots are predominant. When lipid-coated Au NPs are doped with a fluorescent lipid (F-lipid) and incubated with HDF cells, the fluorescence from the F-lipid was found throughout the cell, showing that lipids can dissociate from the Au NP surface upon entering the cell. By first mixing gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) with serum proteins then buffer, Au NP aggregation, commonly observed through direct addition to cell media, is prevented. Cells in cell media with non-aggregated Au NPs exhibit better cell viability and lower uptake of Au NPs. F-actin disruption appears to be related to Au NP uptake and surface chemistry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1642-1651
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 24 2014


  • aggregation
  • F-actin
  • gold nanoparticles
  • lipids
  • surface chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biotechnology


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