Intrapulmonary Cellular-Level Distribution of Inhaled Nanoparticles with Defined Functional Groups and Its Correlations with Protein Corona and Inflammatory Response

Bohan Yin, Cecilia Ka Wing Chan, Shaorui Liu, Huiling Hong, Siu Hong Dexter Wong, Leo Kit Cheung Lee, Lok Wai Cola Ho, Lei Zhang, Ken Cham Fai Leung, Paul Cheung Lung Choi, Liming Bian, Xiao Yu Tian, Man Nin Chan, Chung Hang Jonathan Choi

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Concerns over the health risks associated with airborne exposure to ultrafine particles [PM0.1, or nanoparticles (NPs)] call for a comprehensive understanding in the interactions of inhaled NPs along their respiratory journey. We prepare a collection of polyethylene glycol-coated gold nanoparticles that bear defined functional groups commonly identified in atmospheric particulates (Au@PEG-X NPs, where X = OCH3, COOH, NH2, OH, or C12H25). Regardless of the functional group, these ∼50 nm NPs remain colloidally stable following aerosolization and incubation in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), without pronouncedly crossing the air-blood barrier. The type of BALF proteins adhered onto the NPs is similar, but the composition of protein corona depends on functional group. By subjecting Balb/c mice to inhalation of Au@PEG-X NPs for 6 h, we demonstrate that the intrapulmonary distribution of NPs among the various types of cells (both found in BALF and isolated from the lavaged lung) and the acute inflammatory responses induced by inhalation are sensitive to the functional group of NPs and postinhalation period (0, 24, or 48 h). By evaluating the pairwise correlations between the three variables of "lung-nano" interactions (protein corona, intrapulmonary cellular-level distribution, and inflammatory response), we reveal strong statistical correlations between the (1) fractions of albumin or carbonyl reductase bound to NPs, (2) associations of inhaled NPs to neutrophils in BALF or macrophages in the lavaged lung, and (3) level of total protein in BALF. Our results provide insights into the effect of functional group on lung-nano interactions and health risks associated with inhalation of PM0.1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14048-14069
Number of pages22
JournalACS Nano
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2019


  • bronchoalveolar lavage fluid
  • cellular-level distribution
  • functional group
  • gold nanoparticles
  • inflammatory response
  • inhalation
  • protein corona

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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