Direct Observation of Nanoparticle–Cancer Cell Nucleus Interactions

We report the direct visualization of interactions between drug-loaded nanoparticles and the cancer cell nucleus. Nanoconstructs composed of nucleolin-specific aptamers and gold nanostars were actively transported to the nucleus and induced major changes to the nuclear phenotype via nuclear envelope invaginations near the site of the construct. The number of local deformations could be increased by ultrafast, light-triggered release of the aptamers from the surface of the gold nanostars. Cancer cells with more nuclear envelope folding showed increased caspase 3 and 7 activity (apoptosis) as well as decreased cell viability. This newly revealed correlation between drug-induced changes in nuclear phenotype and increased therapeutic efficacy could provide new insight for nuclear-targeted cancer therapy.