Zwitterionic surface coating of quantum dots reduces protein adsorption and cellular uptake†
We have studied the effect of the zwitterionic surface coating of quantum dots (QDs) on their interaction with a serum supplemented cell medium and their internalization by human cervical carcinoma (HeLa) cells. Zwitterionic QDs showed negligible adsorption of human serum albumin (HSA) selected as a model serum protein, in contrast to similar but negatively charged QDs. The incorporation of zwitterionic QDs by HeLa cells was found to be lower than for negatively charged QDs and for positively charged QDs, for which the uptake yield was largest. Our results suggest that the suppression of protein adsorption, here accomplished by zwitterionic QD surfaces, offers a strategy that allows for reducing the cellular uptake of nanoparticles.