Synthesis of mercaptosuccinic acid/MercaptoPolyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane coated cadmium telluride quantum dots in cell labeling applications

J Nanosci Nanotechnol. 2012 Jun;12(6):4928-35. doi: 10.1166/jnn.2012.4907.


An aqueous synthesis method to obtain highly luminescent cadmium telluride nanocrystals is described. We have shown water-soluble semi-conductor quantum dots with high photoluminescence quantum yield have great potential for biological applications. The spectral properties of these nanocrystals can be easily tuned according to their particle size to yield multicolours simultaneously by a single excitation light source. A stable precursor material sodium tellurite is utilised instead of the traditional oxygen sensitive NaHTe or H2Te as Te source. We have introduced mercaptosuccinic acid and propylisobutyl polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane nanoparticles as novel capping agents to stabilize the nanocrystals, synthesized in borate-citrate buffering system. Inclusion of propylisobutyl polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane nanoparticles in the capping procedure showed enhanced stability and biocompatibility. The presence of mercaptosuccinic acid/propylisobutyl polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane coatings was confirmed by Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy and average sizes of 2-5 nm by transmission electron microscopy measurements. The functionalized and targeted quantum dots detected cancer cell death on exposure to some anticancer drugs. Studies have indicated that apoptotic cells can activate signaling pathways in dendritic cells via ligation of surface receptors. Cells treated with specific class of pro-apototic drug such as anthracyclines mount an anti-tumour immune response when introduced into mice. Apoptotic cells may be immunogenic or non-immunogenic depending on the presence of calreticulin on the plasma membrane of dying tumour cells. Here the confocal microscopy showed localization of conjugated mercaptosuccinic acid/propylisobutyl polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane cadmium telluride quantum dots on MCF-7 cells when exposed to cadmium ions at 50 microM, compared to coated quantum dots. We have used cadmium ions as a model drug as certain anticancer drugs (anthracyclines) induce translocation of calreticulin to the cell membrane, an indicator of apoptosis. Antibodies generated against a peptide to human calreticulin and conjugated to quantum dots detected the protein on cell membrane of stimulated cells were visualized by confocal microscopy. Stimulating natural immune response, against tumours has enormous potential to improve current regimens of cancer detection and therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cadmium Compounds / chemistry*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Nanocapsules / chemistry*
  • Nanocapsules / ultrastructure
  • Organosilicon Compounds / chemistry*
  • Quantum Dots*
  • Staining and Labeling / methods
  • Tellurium / chemistry*
  • Thiomalates / chemistry*


  • Cadmium Compounds
  • Nanocapsules
  • Organosilicon Compounds
  • Thiomalates
  • 2-thiomalic acid
  • Tellurium
  • cadmium telluride