Contrast of the Biological Activity of Negatively and Positively Charged Microwave Synthesized CdSe/ZnS Quantum Dots
2011-12-19T00:00:00Z (GMT) by
Quantum dots (QDs) are semiconductor nanocrystals that have found use in bioimaging, cell tracking, and drug delivery. This article compares the cytotoxicity and cellular interactions of positively and negatively charged CdSe/CdS/ZnS QDs prepared by a microwave method using a murine alveolar macrophage-like cell culture model. Keeping the core semiconductor the same, QD charge was varied by altering the surface capping molecule; negatively charged QDs were formed with mercaptopropionic acid (MPA-QDs) and positively charged QDs with thiocholine (THIO-QDs). The size and charge of these two QDs were investigated in three types of media (RPMI, RPMI + FBS, and X-VIVO serum-free media) relevant for the biological studies. MPA-QDs were found to have negative zeta potential in RPMI, RPMI + FBS, and serum-free media and had sizes ranging from 8 to 54 nm. THIO-QDs suspended in RPMI alone were <62 nm in size, while large aggregates (greater than 1000 nm) formed when these QDs were suspended in RPMI + FBS and serum-free media. THIO-QDs retained positive zeta potential in RPMI and were found to have a negative zeta potential in RPMI + FBS and nearly neutral zeta potential in serum-free media. In a cell culture model, both MPA-QDs and THIO-QDs caused comparable levels of apoptosis and necrosis. Both QDs induced significant tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) secretion only at high concentrations (>250 nM). Both types of QDs were internalized via clathrin-dependent endocytosis. Using real-time, live cell imaging, we found that MPA-QDs interact with the cell surface within minutes and progress through the endocytic pathway to the lysosomes upon internalization. With the THIO-QDs, the internalization process was slower, but the pathways could not be mapped because of spectroscopic interference caused by QD aggregates. Finally, MPA-QDs were found to associate with cell surface scavenger receptors, while the THIO-QDs did not. This study indicates that the surface charge and aggregation characteristics of QDs change drastically in biological culture conditions and, in turn, influence nanoparticle and cellular interactions.