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Endocytosis of Environmental and Engineered Micro- and Nanosized Particles

  1. Peter Gehr,
  2. Martin J.D Clift,
  3. Christina Brandenberger,
  4. Andrea Lehmann,
  5. Fabian Herzog,
  6. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser

Published Online: 1 JUL 2011

DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c100035

Comprehensive Physiology

Comprehensive Physiology

How to Cite

Gehr, P., Clift, M. J., Brandenberger, C., Lehmann, A., Herzog, F. and Rothen-Rutishauser, B. 2011. Endocytosis of Environmental and Engineered Micro- and Nanosized Particles. Comprehensive Physiology. 1:1159–1174.

Author Information

  1. Institute of Anatomy, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 JUL 2011


There are many studies with cells to find out how particles interact with them. In contrast to micronsized particles, which are actively taken up by phagocytosis or macropinocytosis, nanosized particles may be taken up by cells through different endocytic pathways or by another, yet to be defined mechanism. There is increasing evidence that it is the nanosized particles, which are a particular risk because of their high content of organic chemicals and their pro-oxidative potential due to the high surface-to-volume ratio of the particles as compared to the bulk material. It is the goal of this article to create an understanding for the interaction of particles with biological systems, with particular consideration of the interaction of nanoparticles (NPs) with lung cells. One is attempting to understand, how NPs interact with cellular membranes, as it is hardly known, how they are taken up by cells, how they are trafficking in cells, and how they interact with subcellular compartments, such as with mitochondria or with the nucleus. Cells tend to defend themselves against any foreign material, which is taken up. In general, they try to eliminate particulate intruders and this is what they usually manage with micronsized particles. However, with NPs it is different. NPs may not be eliminated easily, and, hence may stimulate the cells to react in an unfavorable way. What we can learn is that NPs behave differently than microparticles. © 2011 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 1:1159-1174, 2011.