Cellular uptake and cytotoxicity of PEGylated gold nanoparticles in C33A cervical cancer cells

Shaquan David, Devanshi Yogeshkumar Patel, Sandra M. Cardona, Neil Kirby, Kathryn M. Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Gold nanoparticles (GNPs) have served as an excellent candidate for biomedical applications. GNPs can be conjugated with carboxyl-polyethylene glycol-thiol (PEG) as a stealth coating which prolongs circulation time [Lipka J et al 2010 Biodistribution of PEG-modified gold nanoparticles following intratracheal instillation and intravenous injection. Biomaterials, 31, 6574-6581, Janát-Amsbury M et al 2011 Geometry and surface characteristics of gold nanoparticles influence their biodistribution and uptake by macrophages. Eur. J. Pharm. Biopharm, 77, 417-423] and increases cellular uptake.[He B et al 2017 Increased cellular uptake of peptide-modified PEGylated gold nanoparticles. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., 494, 339-345, Soenen S. J et al 2014, The cellular interactions of PEGylated gold nanoparticles: effect of PEGylation on cellular uptake and cytotoxicity. Part. Part. Syst. Charact., 31, 794-800, Guo J et al 2016 Bioconjugated gold nanoparticles enhance cellular uptake: A proof of concept study for siRNA delivery in prostate cancer cells. Int. J. Pharm., 509, 16-27. Brandenberger C et al 2010 Quantitative evaluation of cellular uptake and trafficking of plain and polyethylene glycol-coated gold nanoparticles. Small, 6, 1669-1678. To examine the biological effects of PEG-coated GNPs, we investigated their cytotoxicity on human cervical cancer C33A cells as compared to citrate-capped GNPs. Our results indicated that PEGylated GNPs markedly induce apoptosis and necrosis causing cell shrinkage and cell membrane asymmetry. 30 nm citrate-capped GNPs were synthesized in aqueous solution using a citrate-reduction method. GNPs were functionalized with PEG (MW = 7500 g mol-1. The GNPs were characterized using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), confirming that the as-synthesized GNPs have a diameter of 30 nm. Dynamic light scattering (DLS) determined that the hydrodynamic diameter of PEGylated GNPs was 78.82 nm, and that of citrate-capped GNPs was 43.82 nm. Zeta potential measurements showed an increase in colloidal stability for PEGylated GNPs as compared to citrate GNPs, with a zeta potential of-33.33 mV observed for citrate-capped GNPs and a zeta potential of-43.38 mV observed for PEGylated GNPs. The PEGylated GNPs were found to effectively induce early and late-stage apoptosis in C33A cells with a significant reduction in total cell viability of 32.3%. Based on the apoptotic activity in C33A cells, PEGylated GNPs may serve as a promising radiosensitizer for cancer treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025006
JournalNano Express
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • PEGylation
  • annexin V
  • cervical cancer C33A cells
  • citrate-reduction
  • gold nanoparticles
  • zombie aqua viability dye

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)


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