Understanding the synergistic effect of physicochemical properties of nanoparticles and their cellular entry pathways

Jiaqi Lin, Lei Miao, Grace Zhong, Chih Hsin Lin, Roozbeh Dargazangy, Alfredo Alexander-Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Gaining precise control over the cellular entry pathway of nanomaterials is key in achieving cytosolic delivery, accessing subcellular environments, and regulating toxicity. However, this precise control requires a fundamental understanding of the behavior of nanomaterials at the bio-nano interface. Herein, we report a computational study investigating the synergistic effect of several key physicochemical properties of nanomaterials on their cellular entry pathways. By examining interactions between monolayer-protected nanoparticles and model cell membranes in a three-dimensional parameter space of size, surface charge/pKa, and ligand chemistry, we observed four different types of nanoparticle translocation for cellular entry which are: outer wrapping, free translocation, inner attach, and embedment. Nanoparticle size, surface charge/pKa, and ligand chemistry each play a unique role in determining the outcome of translocation. Specifically, membrane local curvature induced by nanoparticles upon contact is critical for initiating the translocation process. A generalized paradigm is proposed to describe the fundamental mechanisms underlying the bio-nano interface.

Original languageEnglish
Article number205
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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