Alkyl-capped silicon nanocrystals lack cytotoxicity and have enhanced intracellular accumulation in malignant cells via cholesterol-dependent endocytosis

Naif H. Alsharif, Christine E. M. Berger, Satya S. Varanasi, Yimin Chao, Benjamin R. Horrocks, Harish K. Datta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


Nanocrystals of various inorganic materials are being considered for application in the life sciences as fluorescent labels and for such therapeutic applications as drug delivery or targeted cell destruction. The potential applications of the nanoparticles are critically compromised due to the well-documented toxicity and lack of understanding about the mechanisms involved in the intracellular internalization. Here intracellular internalization and toxicity of alkyl-capped silicon nanocrystals in human neoplastic and normal primary cells is reported. The capped nanocrystals lack cytotoxicity, and there is a marked difference in the rate and extent of intracellular accumulation of the nanoparticles between human cancerous and non-cancerous primary cells, the rate and extent being higher in the malignant cells compared to normal human primary cells. The exposure of the cells to the alkyl-capped nanocrystals demonstrates no evidence of in vitro cytotoxicity when assessed by cell morphology, apoptosis, and cell viability assays. The internalization of the nanocrystals by Hela and SW1353 cells is almost completely blocked by the pinocytosis inhibitors filipin, cytochalasin B, and actinomycin D. The internalization process is not associated with any surface change in the nanoparticles, as their luminescence spectrum is unaltered upon transport into the cytosol. The observed dramatic difference in the rate and extent of internalization of the nanocrystals between malignant and non-malignant cells therefore offers potential application in the management of human neoplastic conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-228
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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