Cytosolic delivery of membrane-penetrating QDs into T cell lymphocytes: implications in immunotherapy and drug delivery†
We report single-particle characterization of membrane-penetrating semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) in T cell lymphocytes. We functionalized water-soluble CdSe/CdZnS QDs with a cell-penetrating peptide composed of an Asp-Ser-Ser (DSS) repeat sequence. DSS and peptide-free control QDs displayed concentration-dependent internalization. Intensity profiles from single-particle imaging revealed a propensity of DSS-QDs to maintain a monomeric state in the T cell cytosol, whereas control QDs formed pronounced clusters. Single-particle tracking showed a direct correlation between individual QD clusters’ mobility and aggregation state. A significant portion of control QDs colocalized with an endosome marker inside the T cells, while the percentage of DSS-QDs colocalized dropped to 9%. Endocytosis inhibition abrogated the internalization of control QDs, while DSS-QD internalization only mildly decreased, suggesting an alternative cell-entry mechanism. Using 3D single-particle tracking, we captured the rapid membrane-penetrating activity of a DSS-QD. The ability to characterize membrane penetrating activities in live T cells creates inroads for the optimization of gene therapy and drug delivery through the use of novel nanomaterials.