Enhancing the photoluminescence and cellular uptake of fluorescent carbon nanodots via cubosome lipid nanocarriers

Jiali Zhai, Lei Bao, Anna K. Walduck, Brendan P. Dyett, Xudong Cai, Miaosi Li, Zeyad Nasa, Calum J. Drummond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Carbon nanodots (C-dots) have attracted much attention for their use in the fields of bioimaging, drug delivery, and sensing due to their excellent fluorescent and photoluminescent properties, photostability, biocompatibility, and amenability to surface modification. Herein, we report a nanocomposite formulation of C-dots (<5 nm) encapsulated in lipid-based lyotropic liquid crystalline nanoparticles (∼250 nm) via either passive diffusion or electrostatic mechanisms. The physicochemical properties of the nanocomposite formulation including particle size, surface charge, internal cubic nanostructures, and pH-dependent fluorescent properties were characterised. Upon loading of C-dots into lipid nanoparticles, the highly ordered inverse bicontinuous cubic mesophase existed in the internal phase of the nanoparticles, demonstrated by synchrotron small angle X-ray scattering, molecular dynamic simulation and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy. The pH-dependent fluorescent property of the C-dots was modified via electrostatic interaction between the C-dots and cationic lipid nanoparticles, which further enhanced the brightness of C-dots through self-quenching prevention. The cytotoxicity and cellular uptake efficiency of the developed nanocomposites were also examined in an epithelial gastric adenocarcinoma cell line (AGS) and a macrophage cell line (stimulated THP-1). Compared to free C-dots, the uptake and cell imaging potential of the C-dot nanocomposites was significantly improved, by several orders of magnitude as demonstrated by cytoplasmic fluorescent intensities using confocal microscopy. Loading C-dots into mesoporous lipid nanocarriers presents a new way of modifying C-dot physicochemical and fluorescent properties, alternative to direct chemical surface modification, and advances the bioimaging potential of C-dots by enhancing cellular uptake efficiency and converging C-dot light emission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17940-17954
Number of pages15
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2022


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