Single Cell Level Quantification of Nanoparticle-Cell Interactions Using Mass Cytometry

Angela Ivask, Andrew J. Mitchell, Christopher M. Hope, Simon C. Barry, Enzo Lombi, Nicolas H. Voelcker

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Quantification of cell-associated nanoparticles (NPs) is a paramount question in both nanomedicine and nanotoxicology. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry is a well-established method to resolve cell-associated (metal) NPs in bulk cell populations, however, such analysis at single cell level remains a challenge. Here we used mass cytometry, a technique that combines single cell analysis and time-of-flight mass spectrometry, to quantitatively analyze extra- and intracellular silver (Ag) in individual Ag NP exposed human T-lymphocytes. The results revealed significant population heterogeneity: for example, in lymphocytes exposed to 3 μg of 30 nm branched polyethylene imine coated Ag NPs/mL the extracellularly bound Ag varied from 79 to 560 fg and cellular uptake from 17 to 121 fg. Similar amplitude of heterogeneity was observed in cells exposed to various doses of Ag NPs with other sizes and surface coatings, demonstrating the importance of single cell analysis when studying NP-cell interactions. Although mass cytometry has some shortcomings such as inability to analyze potential transformation or dissolution of NPs in cells, we consider this method as the most promising for quantitative assessment of cell-NP interaction at single cell level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8228-8232
Number of pages5
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017

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