Nanoparticles and innate immunity: new perspectives on host defence

Semin Immunol. 2017 Dec;34:33-51. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2017.08.013. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


The innate immune system provides the first line of defence against foreign microbes and particulate materials. Engineered nanoparticles can interact with the immune system in many different ways. Nanoparticles may thus elicit inflammation with engagement of neutrophils, macrophages and other effector cells; however, it is important to distinguish between acute and chronic inflammation in order to identify the potential hazards of nanoparticles for human health. Nanoparticles may also interact with and become internalised by dendritic cells, key antigen-presenting cells of the immune system, where a better understanding of these processes could pave the way for improved vaccination strategies. Nanoparticle characteristics such as size, shape and deformability also influence nanoparticle uptake by a plethora of immune cells and subsequent immune responses. Furthermore, the corona of adsorbed biomolecules on nanoparticle surfaces should not be neglected. Complement activation represents a special case of regulated and dynamic corona formation on nanoparticles with important implications in clearance and safety. Additionally, the inadvertent binding of bacterial lipopolysaccharide to nanoparticles is important to consider as this may skew the outcome and interpretation of immunotoxicological studies. Here, we discuss nanoparticle interactions with different cell types and soluble mediators belonging to the innate immune system.

Keywords: Complement; Engineered nanoparticles; Immunosafety; Inflammation; Innate immunity; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Complement Activation
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / metabolism*
  • Particle Size
  • Vaccination


  • Lipopolysaccharides