Tight junction modulation by chitosan nanoparticles: comparison with chitosan solution

Int J Pharm. 2010 Nov 15;400(1-2):183-93. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2010.08.020. Epub 2010 Aug 19.


Present work investigates the potential of chitosan nanoparticles, formulated by the ionic gelation with tripolyphosphate (TPP), to open the cellular tight junctions and in doing so, improve the permeability of model macromolecules. A comparison is made with chitosan solution at equivalent concentrations. Initial work assessed cytotoxicity (through MTS and LDH assays) of chitosan nanoparticles and solutions on Calu-3 cells. Subsequently, a concentration of chitosan nanoparticles and solution exhibiting minimal toxicity was used to investigate the effect on TEER and macromolecular permeability across filter-cultured Calu-3 monolayer. Chitosan nanoparticles and solution were also tested for their effect on the distribution of the tight junction protein, zonnula occludens-1 (ZO-1). Chitosan nanoparticles produced a sharp and reversible decrease in TEER and increased the permeability of two FITC-dextrans (FDs), FD4 (MW 4 kDa) and FD10 (MW 10 kDa), with effects of a similar magnitude to chitosan solution. Chitosan nanoparticles produced changes in ZO-1 distribution similar to chitosan solution, indicating a tight junction effect. While there was no improvement in permeability with chitosan nanoparticles compared to solution, nanoparticles provide the potential for drug incorporation, and hence the possibility for providing controlled drug release and protection from enzymatic degradation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Chitosan / pharmacology*
  • Dextrans / chemistry
  • Electric Impedance
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate / analogs & derivatives
  • Fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Permeability
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • Solutions
  • Tight Junctions / drug effects*
  • Tight Junctions / metabolism
  • Zonula Occludens-1 Protein


  • Dextrans
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Solutions
  • TJP1 protein, human
  • Zonula Occludens-1 Protein
  • fluorescein isothiocyanate dextran
  • Chitosan
  • Fluorescein-5-isothiocyanate