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Nano Letters

  • Life Science
  • Carbon-Based Materials

Biomolecular Functionalization of a Nanomaterial To Control Stability and Retention within Live Cells

Authors Mitchell Gravely, Mohammad Moein Safaee, and Daniel Roxbury

Abstract

Noncovalent hybrids of single-stranded DNA and single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) have demonstrated applications in biomedical imaging and sensing due to their enhanced biocompatibility and photostable, environmentally responsive near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence. The fundamental properties of such DNA-SWCNTs have been studied to determine the correlative relationships between oligonucleotide sequence and length, SWCNT species, and the physical attributes of the resultant hybrids. However, intracellular environments introduce harsh conditions that can change the physical identities of the hybrid nanomaterials, thus altering their intrinsic optical properties. Here, through visible and NIR fluorescence imaging in addition to confocal Raman microscopy, we show that the oligonucleotide length controls the relative uptake, intracellular optical stability, and retention of DNA-SWCNTs in mammalian cells. Although the absolute NIR fluorescence intensity of DNA-SWCNTs in murine macrophages increases with increasing oligonucleotide length (from 12 to 60 nucleotides), we found that shorter oligonucleotide DNA-SWCNTs undergo a greater magnitude of spectral shift and are more rapidly internalized and expelled from the cell after 24 h. Furthermore, by labeling the DNA with a fluorophore that dequenches upon removal from the SWCNT surface, we found that shorter oligonucleotide strands are displaced from the SWCNT within the cell, altering the physical identity and changing the fate of the internalized nanomaterial.

Finally, through a pharmacological inhibition study, we identified the mechanism of SWCNT expulsion from the cells as lysosomal exocytosis. These findings provide a fundamental understanding of the interactions between SWCNTs and live cells as well as evidence suggesting the ability to control the biological fate of the nanomaterials merely by varying the type of DNA wrapping.

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