In vivo immune cell distribution of gold nanoparticles in Naïve and tumor bearing mice

Joao Paulo Mattos Almeida, Adam Yuh Lin, Robert James Langsner, Phillip Eckels, Aaron Edward Foster, Rebekah Anna Drezek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Gold nanoparticles (AuNP) have been widely used for drug delivery and have recently been explored for applications in cancer immunotherapy. Although AuNPs are known to accumulate heavily in the spleen, the particle distribution within immune cells has not been thoroughly studied. Here, cellular distribution of Cy5 labeled 50 nm AuNPs is characterized within the immune populations of the spleen from naïve and tumor bearing mice using flow cytometry. Surprisingly, approximately 30% of the detected AuNPs are taken up by B cells at 24 h, with about 10% in granulocytes, 18% in dendritic cells, and 8% in T cells. In addition, 3% of the particles are detected within myeloid derived suppressor cells, an immune suppressive population that could be targeted for cancer immunotherapy. Furthermore, it is observed that, over time, the particles traveled from the red pulp and marginal zone to the follicles of the spleen. Taking into consideration that the particle cellular distribution does not change at 1, 6 and 24 h, it is highly suggestive that the immune populations carry the particles and migrate through the spleen instead of the particles migrating through the tissue by cell-cell transfer. Finally, no difference is observed in particle distribution between naïve and tumor bearing mice in the spleen, and nanoparticles are detected within 0.7% of dendritic cells of the tumor microenvironment. Overall, these results can help inform and influence future AuNP delivery design criteria including future applications for nanoparticle-mediated immunotherapy. Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are promising vehicles for immunotherapy. However, there is little understanding of the distribution of AuNPs within cells of the immune system. This study characterizes the distribution of Cy5 labeled 50 nm gold nanoparticles within the spleen and tumor microenvironment, illustrating that AuNPs associate with a range of immune cells, including B cells, granulocytes, dendritic cells, and macrophages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)812-819
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 26 2014


  • biodistribution
  • cancer
  • gold nanoparticles
  • immune system
  • immunotherapy
  • spleen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biotechnology


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