Graphene Oxide Nanosheets Stimulate Ruffling and Shedding of Mammalian Cell Plasma Membranes

Chao Sun, Devin L. Wakefield, Yimo Han, David A. Muller, David A. Holowka, Barbara A. Baird, William R. Dichtel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Graphene oxide (GO) has attracted intense interest for use in living systems and environmental applications. GO's compatibility with mammalian cells is sometimes inferred from its low cytotoxicity, but such conclusions ignore non-lethal effects that will influence GO's utility. Here, we used confocal and live-cell fluorescence microscopy, as well as scanning electron microscopy, of rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) cells to demonstrate profound plasma membrane (PM) ruffling and shedding induced by GO. These membrane structures contain immunoglobulin E receptors, are resistant to detergents, and lack detectable fluorescence labeling of F-actin and fibronectin. The formation of these membrane structures correlates with a loss of contact inhibition between RBL cells. We observed similar cellular responses toward GO for NIH-3T3 fibroblast cells and MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells. These findings reveal a previously uncharacterized cellular response toward foreign nanomaterials. Membrane ruffling and shedding raise fundamental questions about how GO interacts with the PM, as well as its potential to modulate cellular mechanosensing for tissue engineering, stem cell differentiation, and other biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-286
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 11 2016


  • SDG3: Good health and well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Materials Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Graphene Oxide Nanosheets Stimulate Ruffling and Shedding of Mammalian Cell Plasma Membranes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this