It has long been recognized that cationic nanoparticles induce cell membrane permeability. Recently, it has been found that cationic nanoparticles induce the formation and/or growth of nanoscale holes in supported lipid bilayers. In this paper, we show that noncytotoxic concentrations of cationic nanoparticles induce 30−2000 pA currents in 293A (human embryonic kidney) and KB (human epidermoid carcinoma) cells, consistent with a nanoscale defect such as a single hole or group of holes in the cell membrane ranging from 1 to 350 nm2 in total area. Other forms of nanoscale defects, including the nanoparticle porating agents adsorbing onto or intercalating into the lipid bilayer, are also consistent; although the size of the defect must increase to account for any reduction in ion conduction, as compared to a water channel. An individual defect forming event takes 1−100 ms, while membrane resealing may occur over tens of seconds. Patch-clamp data provide direct evidence for the formation of nanoscale defects in living cell membranes. The cationic polymer data are compared and contrasted with patch-clamp data obtained for an amphiphilic phenylene ethynylene antimicrobial oligomer (AMO-3), a small molecule that is proposed to make well-defined 3.4 nm holes in lipid bilayers. Here, we observe data that are consistent with AMO-3 making ∼3 nm holes in living cell membranes.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gregory_tew/6/