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Keywords:

  • nanoparticles;
  • nuclear transport;
  • ligand density;
  • quantum dots;
  • particle size

Studying the effects of the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials on cellular uptake, toxicity, and exocytosis can provide the foundation for designing safer and more effective nanoparticles for clinical applications. However, an understanding of the effects of these properties on subcellular transport, accumulation, and distribution remains limited. The present study investigates the effects of surface density and particle size of semiconductor quantum dots on cellular uptake as well as nuclear transport kinetics, retention, and accumulation. The current work illustrates that cellular uptake and nuclear accumulation of nanoparticles depend on surface density of the nuclear localization signal (NLS) peptides with nuclear transport reaching a plateau at 20% surface NLS density in as little as 30 min. These intracellular nanoparticles have no effects on cell viability up to 72 h post treatment. These findings will set a foundation for engineering more sophisticated nanoparticle systems for imaging and manipulating genetic targets in the nucleus.