Mechanism for the Cellular Uptake of Targeted Gold Nanorods of Defined Aspect Ratios

Hongrong Yang, Zhong Chen, Lei Zhang, Wing Yin Yung, Ken C F Leung, Ho Yin Edwin Chan, Chung Hang Jonathan Choi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Biomedical applications of non-spherical nanoparticles such as photothermal therapy and molecular imaging require their efficient intracellular delivery, yet reported details on their interactions with the cell remain inconsistent. Here, the effects of nanoparticle geometry and receptor targeting on the cellular uptake and intracellular trafficking are systematically explored by using C166 (mouse endothelial) cells and gold nanoparticles of four different aspect ratios (ARs) from 1 to 7. When coated with poly(ethylene glycol) strands, the cellular uptake of untargeted nanoparticles monotonically decreases with AR. Next, gold nanoparticles are functionalized with DNA oligonucleotides to target Class A scavenger receptors expressed by C166 cells. Intriguingly, cellular uptake is maximized at a particular AR: shorter nanorods (AR = 2) enter C166 cells more than nanospheres (AR = 1) and longer nanorods (AR = 4 or 7). Strikingly, long targeted nanorods align to the cell membrane in a near-parallel manner followed by rotating by ≈90° to enter the cell via a caveolae-mediated pathway. Upon cellular entry, targeted nanorods of all ARs predominantly traffic to the late endosome without progressing to the lysosome. The studies yield important materials design rules for drug delivery carriers based on targeted, anisotropic nanoparticles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5178-5189
Number of pages12
Issue number37
Early online date21 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • anisotropic nanoparticles
  • aspect ratio
  • cellular uptake
  • intracellular trafficking
  • receptor targeting


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