Self-Assembly of Gold Nanoparticles Shows Microenvironment-Mediated Dynamic Switching and Enhanced Brain Tumor Targeting

Qishuai Feng, Yajing Shen, Yingjie Fu, Megan E. Muroski, Peng Zhang, Qiaoyue Wang, Chang Xu, Maciej S. Lesniak*, Gang Li, Yu Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Inorganic nanoparticles with unique physical properties have been explored as nanomedicines for brain tumor treatment. However, the clinical applications of the inorganic formulations are often hindered by the biological barriers and failure to be bioeliminated. The size of the nanoparticle is an essential design parameter which plays a significant role to affect the tumor targeting and biodistribution. Here, we report a feasible approach for the assembly of gold nanoparticles into ~80 nm nanospheres as a drug delivery platform for enhanced retention in brain tumors with the ability to be dynamically switched into the single formulation for excretion. These nanoassemblies can target epidermal growth factor receptors on cancer cells and are responsive to tumor microenvironmental characteristics, including high vascular permeability and acidic and redox conditions. Anticancer drug release was controlled by a pH-responsive mechanism. Intracellular L-glutathione (GSH) triggered the complete breakdown of nanoassemblies to single gold nanoparticles. Furthermore, in vivo studies have shown that nanospheres display enhanced tumor-targeting efficiency and therapeutic effects relative to single-nanoparticle formulations. Hence, gold nanoassemblies present an effective targeting strategy for brain tumor treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1875-1889
Number of pages15
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2017


  • Blood-brain barrier (BBB)
  • Gold nanoparticles
  • L-glutathione (GSH)
  • Self-Assembly
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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