Particle size, surface coating, and PEGylation influence the biodistribution of quantum dots in living mice

Small. 2009 Jan;5(1):126-34. doi: 10.1002/smll.200800003.


This study evaluates the influence of particle size, PEGylation, and surface coating on the quantitative biodistribution of near-infrared-emitting quantum dots (QDs) in mice. Polymer- or peptide-coated 64Cu-labeled QDs 2 or 12 nm in diameter, with or without polyethylene glycol (PEG) of molecular weight 2000, are studied by serial micropositron emission tomography imaging and region-of-interest analysis, as well as transmission electron microscopy and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. PEGylation and peptide coating slow QD uptake into the organs of the reticuloendothelial system (RES), liver and spleen, by a factor of 6-9 and 2-3, respectively. Small particles are in part renally excreted. Peptide-coated particles are cleared from liver faster than physical decay alone would suggest. Renal excretion of small QDs and slowing of RES clearance by PEGylation or peptide surface coating are encouraging steps toward the use of modified QDs for imaging living subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Molecular Weight
  • Particle Size
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Quantum Dots*
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Surface Properties


  • Peptides
  • Polyethylene Glycols