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 <i>via</i> 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.