Mechanisms for cellular uptake of nanosized clinical MRI contrast agents

Emily Guggenheim, Joshua Rappoport, Iseult Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
195 Downloads (Pure)


Engineered Nanomaterials (NMs), such as Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles (SPIONs), offer significant benefits in a wide range of applications, including cancer diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. However, the use of NMs in biomedicine raises safety concerns due to lack of knowledge on possible biological interactions and effects. The initial basis for using SPIONs as biomedical MRI contrast enhancement agents was the idea that they are selectively taken up by macrophage cells, and not by the surrounding cancer cells. To investigate this claim, we analyzed the uptake of SPIONs into well-established cancer cell models and benchmarked this against a common macrophage cell model. In combination with fluorescent labeling of compartments and siRNA silencing of various proteins involved in common endocytic pathways, the mechanisms of internalization of SPIONs in these cell types has been ascertained utilizing reflectance confocal microscopy. Caveolar mediated endocytosis and macropinocytosis are both implicated in SPION uptake into cancer cells, whereas in macrophage cells, a clathrin-dependant route appears to predominate. Colocalization studies confirmed the eventual fate of SPIONs as accumulation in the degradative lysosomes. Dissolution of the SPIONs within the lysosomal environment has also been determined, allowing a fuller understanding of the cellular interactions, uptake, trafficking and effects of SPIONs within a variety of cancer cells and macrophages. Overall, the behavior of SPIONS in non-phagocytotic cell lines is broadly similar to that in the specialist macrophage cells, although some differences in the uptake patterns are apparent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-532
Number of pages29
Issue number4
Early online date9 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020


  • Diagnostics
  • exposure
  • materials science
  • mechanistic toxicology
  • nanotoxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Toxicology


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