The evaluation of the role of physicochemical properties in the toxicity of nanoparticles is important for the understanding of toxicity mechanisms and for controlling the behavior of nanoparticles. The surface charge of nanoparticles is suggested as one of the key parameters which decide their biological impact. In this study, we synthesized fluorophore-conjugated polystyrene nanoparticles (F
-PLNPs), with seven different types of surface functional groups that were all based on an identical core, to evaluate the role of surface charge in the cellular uptake of nanoparticles. Phagocytic differentiated THP-1 cells or non-phagocytic A549 cells were incubated with F
-PLNP for 4 h, and their cellular uptake was quantified by fluorescence intensity and confocal microscopy. The amount of internalized F
-PLNPs showed a good positive correlation with the zeta potential of F
-PLNPs in both cell lines (Pearson’s r
= 0.7021 and 0.7852 for zeta potential vs. cellular uptake in THP-1 cells and nonphagocytic A549 cells, respectively). This result implies that surface charge is the major parameter determining cellular uptake efficiency, although other factors such as aggregation/agglomeration, protein corona formation, and compositional elements can also influence the cellular uptake partly or indirectly.
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