The presence of serum alters the properties of iron oxide nanoparticles and lowers their accumulation by cultured brain astrocytes

  • Mark Geppert
  • Charlotte Petters
  • Karsten Thiel
  • Ralf DringenEmail author
Research Paper


Iron oxide nanoparticles (IONPs) are considered for various diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Such particles are able to cross the blood–brain barrier and are taken up into brain cells. To test whether serum components affect the properties of IONPs and/or their uptake into brain cells, we have incubated dimercaptosuccinate-coated magnetic IONPs without and with fetal calf serum (FCS) and have exposed cultured brain astrocytes with IONPs in the absence or presence of FCS. Incubation with FCS caused a concentration-dependent increase in the average hydrodynamic diameter of the particles and of their zeta-potential. In the presence of 10 % FCS, the diameter of the IONPs increased from 57 ± 2 to 107 ± 6 nm and the zeta-potential of the particles from −22 ± 5 to −9 ± 1 mV. FCS affected also strongly the uptake of IONPs by cultured astrocytes. The efficient time- and temperature-dependent cellular accumulation of IONPs was lowered with increasing concentration of FCS by up to 90 %. In addition, in the absence of serum, endocytosis inhibitors did not alter the IONP accumulation by astrocytes, while chlorpromazine or wortmannin lowered significantly the accumulation of IONPs in the presence of FCS, suggesting that clathrin-mediated endocytosis and macropinocytosis are involved in astrocytic IONP uptake from serum-containing medium. These data demonstrate that the presence of FCS strongly affects the properties of IONPs as well as their accumulation by cultured brain cells.


Albumin Brain Endocytosis FCS IONPs 



Analysis of variance


Bovine serum albumin


Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium


Dimercaptosuccinic acid


Dimethyl sulfoxide




Fetal calf serum


2-(4-(2-Hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazinyl)-ethansulfonic acid


Incubation buffer


Iron oxide nanoparticles


Lactate dehydrogenase


(3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide


Nicotinaminde adenine dinucleotide (reduced)


Phosphate buffered saline


Standard deviation


Transmission electron microscopy



M. Geppert was a recipient of a Ph.D. fellowship from the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung and a member of the graduate school “nanoToxCom.” The authors thank Dr. Malte Kleemeier (Fraunhofer IFAM, Bremen) for technical advice regarding dynamic light scattering and Dr. Jan Köser (University of Bremen) for technical advice regarding zeta-potential measurements.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Geppert
    • 1
    • 2
  • Charlotte Petters
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karsten Thiel
    • 3
  • Ralf Dringen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Centre for Biomolecular Interactions BremenUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Environmental Research and Sustainable TechnologyUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  3. 3.Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced MaterialsBremenGermany

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