Macrophage scavenger receptor A mediates the uptake of gold colloids by macrophages in vitro

Nanomedicine (Lond). 2011 Sep;6(7):1175-88. doi: 10.2217/nnm.11.41. Epub 2011 Jun 15.


Aims: While numerous studies have reported on nanoparticle uptake by phagocytic cells, the mechanisms of this uptake are poorly understood. A metastudy of research focusing on biological particulate matter has postulated that nanoparticles cannot be phagocytosed and therefore must enter cells via pinocytosis. The purpose of this study was to identify the route(s) of uptake of gold nanoparticles in vitro and to determine if these route(s) depend on particle size.

Materials & methods: The parent RAW264.7 cell line and its derivatives, transduced with a virus carrying siRNA to macrophage scavenger receptor A, were used as model phagocytes. Citrate-stabilized gold colloids were used as model nanoparticles. We used chemical inhibitors known to interfere with specific routes of particulate uptake. We developed multifocal light microscopy methods including multifocal stack analysis with NIH ImageJ software to analyze cell uptake.

Results: Irrespective of size, gold nanoparticles are internalized by macrophages via multiple routes, including both phagocytosis and pinocytosis. If either route was blocked, the particles entered cells via the other route.

Conclusion: Gold nanoparticles with hydrodynamic sizes below 100 nm can be phagocytosed. Phagocytosis of anionic gold colloids by RAW264.7 cells is mediated by macrophage scavenger receptor A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Gold Colloid / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Phagocytosis
  • Pinocytosis
  • Receptors, Scavenger / metabolism*
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class A / metabolism*


  • Gold Colloid
  • Receptors, Scavenger
  • Scavenger Receptors, Class A