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Fluorescent ZnS Quantum Dots–Phosphoethanolamine Nanoconjugates for Bioimaging Live Cells in Cancer Research

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journal contribution
posted on 16.11.2018, 00:00 by Alexandra A. P. Mansur, Herman S. Mansur, Sandhra M. Carvalho, Zélia I. P. Lobato, Maria de Fátima Leite, Lorena L. Mansur
Many human diseases, including metabolic, immune, and central nervous system disorders, as well as several types of cancers, are the consequence of an important alteration in lipid-related metabolic biomolecules. Although recognized that one of the most important metabolic hallmarks of cancer cells is deregulation of lipid metabolism, the multiple complex signaling pathways are poorly understood yet. Thus, in this research, novel nanoconjugates made of ZnS quantum dots (QDs) were directly synthesized in aqueous media using phosphoethanolamine (PEA) as the capping ligand, which is an important biomolecule naturally present in cells for de novo biosynthesis of fatty acids and phospholipids involved in the cell structure (e.g., membrane), differentiation, and cancer growth. These QD–PEA bio-nanoconjugates were characterized by spectroscopical and morphological techniques. The results demonstrated that fluorescent ZnS nanocrystalline QDs were produced with uniform spherical morphology and estimated sizes of 3.3 ± 0.6 nm. These nanoconjugates indicated core–shell colloidal nanostructures (ZnS QD–PEA) with the hydrodynamic diameter (HD) of 26.0 ± 3.5 nm and ζ-potential centered at −30.0 ± 4.5 mV. The cell viability response using mitochondrial activity assay in vitroconfirmed no cytotoxicity at several concentrations of PEA (biomolecule) and the ZnS–PEA nanoconjugates. Moreover, these nanoconjugates effectively behaved as fluorescent nanomarkers for tracking the endocytic pathways of cancer cells using confocal laser scanning microscopy bioimaging. Hence, these results proved that biofunctionalized ZnS–PEA nanoprobes offer prospective tools for cellular bioimaging with encouraging forecast for future applications as active fluorescent biomarker conjugates in metabolic-related cancer research.