Preoccupation of Empty Carriers Decreases Endo-/Lysosome Escape and Reduces the Protein Delivery Efficiency of Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles

Wen Qing Li, Li Ping Sun, Yiqiu Xia, Sijie Hao, Gong Cheng, Zhigang Wang, Yuan Wan, Chuandong Zhu, Hongzhang He, Si Yang Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Endo-/lysosome escape is a major challenge in nanoparticle-based protein delivery for cancer therapy. To enhance the endo-/lysosomal escape and increase the efficacy of protein delivery, current strategies mainly focus on destroying endo-/lysosomes by employing modified nanoparticles, such as pH-sensitive polyplexes, cell-penetrating peptides, and photosensitive molecules. Herein, we hypothesize that pretreatment with empty nanocarriers might make endo-/lysosomes occupied and affect the endo/lysosomal escape of protein subsequently delivery by nanocarriers. We first treated breast carcinoma MDA-MB-231 cells with a high concentration of empty nanocarriers, mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSN), to occupy the endo-/lysosome. After 2 h, we treated the cells with a lower concentration of fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled MSN (MSN-FITC) and investigated the intracellular spatial and temporal distribution of MSN-FITC and their colocalization with endo-/lysosomes. We discovered the preoccupation of endo-/lysosomes by the empty nanocarriers did exist, mainly through changing the spatial distribution of the subsequently introduced nanocarriers. Furthermore, for the protein delivery, we observed reduced MSN-saporin delivery after endo-/lysosome preoccupation by MSN empty carriers. A similar result is observed for the delivery of cytochrome C by MSN but not for the small-molecule anticancer drug doxorubicin. The results show that the empty nanocarriers inhibit the endo-/lysosome intracellular trafficking process and decrease the endo-/lysosome escape of proteins subsequently delivered by the nanocarriers. This new discovered phenomenon of declined endo-/lysosome escape after endo-/lysosome preoccupation indicates that repeated treatment by nanomaterials with low protein-loading capacity may not yield a good cancer therapeutic effect. Therefore, it provides a new insightful perspective on the role of nanomaterial carriers in intracellular protein delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5340-5347
Number of pages8
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 14 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)


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