Fluorescence and electron microscopy to visualize the intracellular fate of nanoparticles for drug delivery

  • M. Costanzo University of Verona, Italy.
  • F. Carton University of Verona, Italy.
  • A. Marengo University of Turin, Italy.
  • G. Berlier University of Turin, Italy.
  • B. Stella University of Turin, Italy.
  • S. Arpicco University of Turin, Italy.
  • M. Malatesta | manuela.malatesta@univr.it University of Verona, Italy.


In order to design valid protocols for drug release via nanocarriers, it is essential to know the mechanisms of cell internalization, the interactions with organelles, and the intracellular permanence and degradation of nanoparticles (NPs) as well as the possible cell alteration or damage induced. In the present study, the intracellular fate of liposomes, polymeric NPs and mesoporous silica NPs (MSN) has been investigated in an in vitro cell system by fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy. The tested nanocarriers proved to be characterized by specific interactions with the cell: liposomes enter the cells probably by fusion with the plasma membrane and undergo rapid cytoplasmic degradation; polymeric NPs are internalized by endocytosis, occur in the cytoplasm both enclosed in endosomes and free in the cytosol, and then undergo massive degradation by lysosome action; MSN are internalized by both endocytosis and phagocytosis, and persist in the cytoplasm enclosed in vacuoles. No one of the tested nanocarriers was found to enter the nucleus. The exposure to the different nanocarriers did not increase cell death; only liposomes induced a reduction of cell population after long incubation times, probably due to cell overloading. No subcellular damage was observed to be induced by polymeric NPs and MSN, whereas transmission electron microscopy revealed cytoplasm alterations in liposome-treated cells. This important information on the structural and functional relationships between nanocarriers designed for drug delivery and cultured cells further proves the crucial role of microscopy techniques in nanotechnology.



PlumX Metrics


Download data is not yet available.
Original Papers
Supporting Agencies
MIUR - University of Turin Fondi Ricerca Locale (ex-60%)
Liposomes, mesoporous silica nanoparticles, polymeric nanoparticles, fluorescence microscopy, electron microscopy.
  • Abstract views: 1205

  • PDF: 551
  • HTML: 564
How to Cite
Costanzo, M., Carton, F., Marengo, A., Berlier, G., Stella, B., Arpicco, S., & Malatesta, M. (2016). Fluorescence and electron microscopy to visualize the intracellular fate of nanoparticles for drug delivery. European Journal of Histochemistry, 60(2). https://doi.org/10.4081/ejh.2016.2640