Single-walled carbon nanohorns decorated with semiconductor quantum dots to evaluate intracellular transport

Kristen A. Zimmermann*, David L. Inglefield, Jianfei Zhang, Harry C. Dorn, Timothy Edward Long, Christopher G. Rylander, M. Nichole Rylander

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Single-walled carbon nanohorns (SWNHs) have great potential to enhance thermal and chemotherapeutic drug efficiencies for cancer therapies. Despite their diverse capabilities, minimal research has been conducted so far to study nanoparticle intracellular transport, which is an important step in designing efficient therapies. SWNHs, like many other carbon nanomaterials, do not have inherent fluorescence properties making intracellular transport information difficult to obtain. The goals of this project were to (1) develop a simple reaction scheme to decorate the exohedral surface of SWNHs with fluorescent quantum dots (QDs) and improve conjugate stability, and (2) evaluate SWNH-QD conjugate cellular uptake kinetics and localization in various cancer cell lines of differing origins and morphologies. In this study, SWNHs were conjugated to CdSe/ZnS core/shell QDs using a unique approach to carbodiimide chemistry. Transmission electron microscopy and electron dispersive spectroscopy verified the conjugation of SWNHs and QDs. Cellular uptake kinetics and efficiency were characterized in three malignant cell lines: U-87 MG (glioblastoma), MDA-MB-231 (breast cancer), and AY-27 (bladder transitional cell carcinoma) using flow cytometry. Cellular distribution was verified by confocal microscopy, and cytotoxicity was also evaluated using an alamarBlue assay. Results indicate that cellular uptake kinetics and efficiency are highly dependent on cell type, highlighting the significance of studying nanoparticle transport at the cellular level. Nanoparticle intracellular transport investigations may provide information to optimize treatment parameters (e.g., SWNH concentration, treatment time, etc.) depending on tumor etiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2078
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Cellular distribution
  • Nanobiotechnology
  • Quantum dot (QD)
  • Single-walled carbon nanohorn (SWNH)
  • Uptake kinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Bioengineering


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