Nanoparticle hydrophobicity dictates immune response

J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Mar 7;134(9):3965-7. doi: 10.1021/ja2108905. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


Understanding the interactions of nanomaterials with the immune system is essential for the engineering of new macromolecular systems for in vivo applications. Systematic study of immune activation is challenging due to the complex structure of most macromolecular probes. We present here the use of engineered gold nanoparticles to determine the sole effect of hydrophobicity on the immune response of splenocytes. The gene expression profile of a range of cytokines (immunological reporters) was analyzed against the calculated log P of the nanoparticle headgroups, with an essentially linear increase in immune activity with the increase in hydrophobicity observed in vitro. Consistent behavior was observed with in vivo mouse models, demonstrating the importance of hydrophobicity in immune system activation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Gold