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Selective Targeting of Neurons with Inorganic Nanoparticles: Revealing the Crucial Role of Nanoparticle Surface Charge

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posted on 08.06.2017 by Silvia Dante, Alessia Petrelli, Enrica Maria Petrini, Roberto Marotta, Alessandro Maccione, Alessandro Alabastri, Alessandra Quarta, Francesco De Donato, Tiziana Ravasenga, Ayyappan Sathya, Roberto Cingolani, Remo Proietti Zaccaria, Luca Berdondini, Andrea Barberis, Teresa Pellegrino
Nanoparticles (NPs) are increasingly used in biomedical applications, but the factors that influence their interactions with living cells need to be elucidated. Here, we reveal the role of NP surface charge in determining their neuronal interactions and electrical responses. We discovered that negatively charged NPs administered at low concentration (10 nM) interact with the neuronal membrane and at the synaptic cleft, whereas positively and neutrally charged NPs never localize on neurons. This effect is shape and material independent. The presence of negatively charged NPs on neuronal cell membranes influences the excitability of neurons by causing an increase in the amplitude and frequency of spontaneous postsynaptic currents at the single cell level and an increase of both the spiking activity and synchronous firing at neural network level. The negatively charged NPs exclusively bind to excitable neuronal cells, and never to nonexcitable glial cells. This specific interaction was also confirmed by manipulating the electrophysiological activity of neuronal cells. Indeed, the interaction of negatively charged NPs with neurons is either promoted or hindered by pharmacological suppression or enhancement of the neuronal activity with tetrodotoxin or bicuculline, respectively. We further support our main experimental conclusions by using numerical simulations. This study demonstrates that negatively charged NPs modulate the excitability of neurons, revealing the potential use of NPs for controlling neuron activity.