The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 249, Issue 6, pp 757–767 | Cite as

Size Effects on the Interaction of QDs with the Mitochondrial Membrane In Vitro

  • Lu LaiEmail author
  • Ya-Ping Li
  • Ping Mei
  • Wu Chen
  • Feng-Lei Jiang
  • Yi LiuEmail author


The mitochondrial toxicity induced by GSH-CdTe Quantum dots (QDs) of different sizes was investigated. The decreases in absorbance and transmission electron microscopy images show that QDs induce the swelling of mitochondria. Results of flow cytometry indicate that QDs cause a reduction of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP). A remarkable increase in fluidity of protein regions of mitochondrial membrane is observed, whereas the lipid regions are not obviously affected. Cyclosporin A (CsA) effectively prevents the QD-induced mitochondrial swelling. On the basis of these results, it is proposed that QDs induce mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT). Moreover, with increasing QDs size, a pronounced MPT is observed. The difference between the membrane fluidity induced by QDs and Cadmium ion and the ineffective protective effects of EDTA suggests that the mitochondrial toxicity of QDs cannot be only attributed to the release of metal ion. The protective effects of HSA indicate that the interaction of QDs with pore-forming protein gives rise to the increase in membrane fluidity. This hypothesis is demonstrated by the interaction of QDs with model membranes and proteins using differential scanning calorimetry and isothermal titration microcalorimetry. In conclusion, as the size of QDs increases, the binding affinity of QDs with membrane protein increases, and therefore causes a pronounced mitochondrial damage.


CdTe Quantum dots Mitochondria Model membranes 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars of China (Grant No. 21225313) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 21403017, 21473125).

Supplementary material

232_2016_9920_MOESM1_ESM.docx (525 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 524 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Chemistry and Environmental EngineeringYangtze UniversityJingzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Virology and Key Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry for Biology and Medicine (Ministry of Education), College of Chemistry and Molecule SciencesWuhan UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

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