Efficient Subcellular Targeting to the Cell Nucleus of Quantum Dots Densely Decorated with a Nuclear Localization Sequence Peptide

Amit Ranjan Maity, David Stepensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Organelle-targeted drug delivery can enhance the efficiency of the intracellularly acting drugs and reduce their toxicity. We generated core-shell type CdSe-ZnS quantum dots (QDs) densely decorated with NLS peptidic targeting residues using a 3-stage decoration approach and investigated their endocytosis and nuclear targeting efficiencies. The diameter of the generated QDs increased following the individual decoration stages (16.3, 18.9, and 21.9 nm), the ζ-potential became less negative (-33.2, -17.5, and -11.9 mV), and characteristic changes appeared in the FTIR spectra following decoration with the linker and NLS peptides. Quantitative analysis of the last decoration stage revealed that 37.9% and 33.2% of the alkyne-modified NLS groups that were added to the reaction mix became covalently attached or adsorbed to the QDs surface, respectively. These numbers correspond to 63.6 and 55.7 peptides conjugated or adsorbed to a single QD (the surface density of 42 and 37 conjugated and adsorbed peptides per 1000 nm2 of the QDs surface), which is higher than in the majority of previous studies that reported decoration efficiencies of formulations intended for nuclear-targeted drug delivery. QDs decorated with NLS peptides undergo more efficient endocytosis, as compared to other investigated QDs formulations, and accumulated to a higher extent in the cell nucleus or in close vicinity to it (11.9%, 14.6%, and 56.1% of the QDs endocytosed by an average cell for the QD-COOH, QD-azide, and QD-NLS formulations, respectively). We conclude that dense decoration of QDs with NLS residues increased their endocytosis and led to their nuclear targeting (preferential accumulation in the cells nuclei or in close vicinity to them). The experimental system and research tools that were used in this study allow quantitative investigation of the mechanisms that govern the QDs nuclear targeting and their dependence on the formulation properties. These findings will contribute to the development of subcellularly targeted DDSs that will deliver specific drugs to the nuclei of the target cells and will enhance efficacy and reduce toxicity of these drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2001-2009
Number of pages9
JournalACS applied materials & interfaces
Issue number3
StatePublished - 27 Jan 2016


  • Click chemistry
  • nuclear localization sequence
  • peptidic targeting residues
  • quantitative analysis of conjugation efficiency
  • quantum dots
  • subcellular targeting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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