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Study of Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles' (MSNs) intracellular trafficking and their application as drug delivery vehicles


Mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) are attractive drug delivery vehicle candidates due to their biocompatibility, stability, high surface area and efficient cellular uptake. In this dissertation, I discuss three aspects of MSNs' cellular behavior. First, MSNs are targeted to primary and metastatic cancer cell lines, then their exocytosis from cancer cells is studied, and finally they are used to recover intracellular proteins. Targeting of MSNs to primary cancer cells is achieved by conjugating transferrin on the surface of the mesoporous framework, which resulted in enhancement of nanoparticle uptake and drug delivery efficacy in cells that overexpress the transferrin receptor. Similarly, RGD peptides are used to target metastatic cancer cell lines that over-express integrin &alpha&nu&beta3. A circular RGD peptide is bound to the surface of MSNs and the endocytosis and cell killing efficacy of camptothecin loaded nanoparticles is significantly improved in cells that express the target receptor. Besides targeting, I studied the ultimate fate of phosphonate coated mesoporous silica nanoparticles inside cells. I discovered that the nanoparticles are exocytosed from cells through lysosomal exocytosis. The nanoparticles are exocytosed in intact form and the time that they remain inside the cells is affected by the surface properties of the nanoparticles and the type of cells. Cells that have a high rate of lysosomal exocytosis excrete the nanoparticles rapidly, which makes them more resistant to drug loaded nanoparticles because the amount of drug that is released inside the cell is limited. When the exocytosis of MSNs is inhibited, the cell killing efficacy of nanoparticles loaded with camptothecin is enhanced. The discovery that MSNs are exocytosed by cells led to a study to determine if proteins could be recovered from the exocytosed nanoparticles. The procedure to isolate exocytosed zinc-doped iron core MSNs and identify the proteins bound to them was developed. This serves as a foundation to use MSNs as protein harvesting tools and investigate protein expression in cancer cells.

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