Quantifying size-dependent interactions between fluorescently labeled polystyrene nanoparticles and mammalian cells

Juan A Varela, Mariana G Bexiga, Christoffer Åberg, Jeremy C Simpson, Kenneth A Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Nanoparticles (NPs) are currently used in a wide variety of fields such as technology, medicine and industry. Due to the novelty of these applications and to ensure their success, a precise characterization of the interactions between NPs and cells is essential.

FINDINGS: The current study explores the uptake of polystyrene NPs by 1321N1 human astrocytoma and A549 human lung carcinoma cell lines. In this work we show for the first time a comparison of the uptake rates of fluorescently labeled carboxylated polystyrene (PS) NPs of different sizes (20, 40 and 100 nm) in two different cell types, keeping the number of NPs per unit volume constant for all sizes. We propose a reliable methodology to control the dose of fluorescently labeled NPs, by counting individual NPs using automated particle detection from 3D confocal microscopy images. The possibility of detecting individual NPs also allowed us to calculate the size of each nanoparticle and compare the fluorescence of single NPs across different sizes, thereby providing a robust platform for normalization of NP internalization experiments as measured by flow cytometry.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show that 40 nm NPs are internalized faster than 20 nm or 100 nm particles in both cell lines studied, suggesting that there is a privileged size gap in which the internalization of NPs is higher.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39
JournalJournal of nanobiotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2012


  • Biotechnology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endocytosis/physiology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Dyes/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Nanoparticles/chemistry
  • Nanotechnology
  • Particle Size
  • Polystyrenes/chemistry


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