A quantitative study of intercellular heterogeneity in gold nanoparticle uptake across multiple cell lines

  • Tyron Turnbull
  • Benjamin Thierry
  • Ivan KempsonEmail author
Research Paper


Quantification of intercellular heterogeneity in nanoparticle association is of paramount interest in research investigating applications of nanoparticles in the biomedical space. In this work, gold nanoparticle association (AuNP) in cell populations was quantified using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XRF) for 3 different cell lines (PC-3, Caco2 and MDA-MB-231) and 2 nanoparticle co-culture times (30 min and 10% of each respective cell lines’ doubling time). Heterogeneity in association between single cells in the same population was dependant on cell line as well as co-culture time. AuNP association heterogeneity increased with co-culture time for 2 out of the 3 cell lines. Regardless of mean association quantity and measured intercellular heterogeneity, all data were best described by log normal distributions. Mean association between cell lines was statistically different at 30 min, yet indistinguishable at 10% doubling time. Heterogeneity between cell lines which demonstrated statistical differences in distribution can exist despite having statistically indistinguishable means.


Nanoparticles Uptake Statistics Distribution Cell population Rare cells 



This research was undertaken on the XFM beamline at the Australian Synchrotron, part of ANSTO.

Funding information

This work was supported by the Australian Government through NH&MRC project grant 1045841, Microscopy Australia at the South Australian Regional Facility, University of South Australia and the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP190102119).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2019_2154_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (245 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 245 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tyron Turnbull
    • 1
  • Benjamin Thierry
    • 1
  • Ivan Kempson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Future Industries InstituteUniversity of South AustraliaMawson LakesAustralia

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