Dendrimer-based nanotechnology significantly advances the area of targeted cancer imaging and therapy. Herein, we compared the difference of surface acetylated fluorescein isocyanate (FI) and folic acid (FA) modified generation 5 (G5) poly(amidoamine) dendrimers (G5.NHAc-FI-FA), and dendrimer-entrapped gold nanoparticles with similar modifications ([(Au0)51.2-G5.NHAc-FI-FA]) in terms of their specific internalization to FA receptor (FAR)-overexpressing cancer cells. Confocal microscopic studies show that both G5.NHAc-FI-FA and [(Au0)51.2-G5.NHAc-FI-FA] exhibit similar internalization kinetics regardless of the existence of Au nanoparticles (NPs). Molecular dynamics simulation of the two different nanostructures reveals that the surface area and the FA moiety distribution from the center of the geometry are slightly different. This slight difference may not be recognized by the FARs on the cell membrane, consequently leading to similar internalization kinetics. This study underlines the fact that metal or inorganic NPs entrapped within dendrimers interact with cells in a similar way to that of dendrimers lacking host NPs. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 91: 936–942, 2009.
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