Penetration of amphiphilic quantum dots through model and cellular plasma membranes

ACS Nano. 2012 Mar 27;6(3):2150-6. doi: 10.1021/nn204930y. Epub 2012 Feb 13.


In this work we demonstrate progress in the colloidal synthesis of amphiphilic CdTe nanocrystals stabilized by thiolated PEG oligomers with the aim of facilitating cellular uptake of the particles. High-boiling, good coordinating solvents such as dimethylacetamide and dimethylformamide accelerate the growth of the nanoparticles yielding stable colloids of which photoluminescence maxima can be tuned to cover the region of 540-640 nm with quantum yields of up to 30%. The CdTe nanocrystals capped by thiolated methoxypolyethylene glycol are shown to penetrate through the lipid bilayer of giant unilamellar vesicles and giant plasma membrane vesicles which constitute basic endocytosis-free model membrane systems. Moreover, the penetration of amphiphilic particles through live cell plasma membranes and their ability to escape the endocytic pathway have been demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cadmium Compounds / chemistry
  • Cadmium Compounds / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Endocytosis*
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions*
  • Intracellular Space / metabolism
  • Molecular Weight
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Quantum Dots*
  • Tellurium / chemistry
  • Tellurium / metabolism
  • Transition Temperature
  • Unilamellar Liposomes / metabolism*


  • Cadmium Compounds
  • Unilamellar Liposomes
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Tellurium
  • cadmium telluride