Nano Research

Article Title

Cadmium nanoclusters in a protein matrix: Synthesis, characterization, and application in targeted drug delivery and cellular imaging


Cd nanoclusters, hyaluronic acid, targeted drug delivery, fluorescence bioimaging, nanocarrier


ABSTRACT Biotemplated metal nanoclusters have garnered much attention owing to their wide range of potential applications in biosensing, bioimaging, catalysis, and nanomedicine. Here, we report the synthesis of stable, biocompatible, watersoluble, and highly fluorescent bovine serum albumin-templated cadmium nanoclusters (CdNCs) through a facile one-pot green method. We covalently conjugated hyaluronic acid (HA) to the CdNCs to form a pH-responsive, tumortargeting theranostic nanocarrier with a sustained release profile for doxorubicin (DOX), a model anticancer drug. The nanocarrier showed a DOX encapsulation efficiency of about 75.6%. DOX release profiles revealed that 74% of DOX was released at pH 5.3, while less than 26% of DOX was released at pH 7.4 within the same 24-h period. The nanocarrier selectively recognized MCF-7 breast cancer cells expressing CD44, a cell surface receptor for HA, whereas no such recognition was observed with HA receptor-negative HEK293 cells. Biocompatibility of the nanocarrier was evaluated through cytotoxicity assays with HEK293 and MCF-7 cells. The nanocarrier exhibited very low to no cytotoxicity, whereas the DOX-loaded nanocarrier showed considerable cellular uptake and enhanced MCF-7 breast cancer cell-killing ability. We also confirmed the feasibility of using the highly fluorescent nanoconjugate for bioimaging of MCF-7 and HeLa cells. The superior targeted drug delivery efficacy, cellular imaging capability, and low cytotoxicity position this nanoconjugate as an exciting new nanoplatform with promising biomedical applications.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press