Size-dependent properties of functional PPV-based conjugated polymer nanoparticles for bioimaging

Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces. 2018 Sep 1:169:494-501. doi: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2018.05.055. Epub 2018 May 24.


Conjugated polymer nanoparticle systems have gained significant momentum in the bioimaging field on account of their biocompatibility and outstanding spectroscopic properties. Recently, new control procedures have spawned custom-built functional poly(p-phenylene vinylene) (PPV). These facilitate the one-pot synthesis of semiconducting polymer NPs with incorporated surface functional groups, an essential feature for advanced biomedical applications. In this work, nanoparticles (NPs) of different sizes are synthesized consisting of the statistical copolymer CPM-co-MDMO-PPV with monomer units 2-(5'-methoxycarbonylpentyloxy)-5-methoxy-1,4-phenylenevinylene (CPM-PPV) and poly(2-methoxy-5-(3',7'-dimethoxyoctyloxy)-1,4-phenylenevinylene) (MDMO-PPV). To monitor potential implications of switching from a commonly used homopolymer to copolymer system, MDMO-PPV NPs were prepared as a control. The versatile combination of the miniemulsion and solvent evaporation method allowed for an easy adaptation of the NP size. Decreasing the diameter of functional PPV-based NPs up to 20 nm did not significantly affect their optical properties nor the biocompatibility of the bioimaging probe, as cell viability never dropped below 90%. The quantum yield and molar extinction coefficient remained stable at values of 1-2% and 106 M-1 cm-1 respectively, indicating an excellent fluorescence brightness. However, a threshold was observed to which the size could be lowered without causing irreversible changes to the system. Cell uptake varied drastically depended on size and material choice, as switching from homo- to copolymer system and lowering the size significantly increased NP uptake. These results clearly demonstrate that adjusting the size of functional PPV-based NPs can be achieved easily to a lower limit of 20 nm without adversely affecting their performance in bioimaging applications.

Keywords: Bioimaging; Conjugated polymers; Nanoparticles; PPV; Size-dependent properties.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / chemical synthesis
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fluorescence
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemical synthesis
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Kinetics
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Particle Size
  • Polyvinyls / chemical synthesis
  • Polyvinyls / chemistry*
  • Polyvinyls / pharmacology
  • Surface Properties


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Polyvinyls
  • poly(4-phenylenevinylene)