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Cellular uptake pathways of sepiolite nanofibers and DNA transfection improvement

Sepiolite is a nanofibrous natural silicate that can be used as a nanocarrier because it can be naturally internalized into mammalian cells, due to its nano-size dimension. Therefore, deciphering the mechanisms of sepiolite cell internalization constitutes a question interesting biotechnology, for the use of sepiolite as nanocarrier, as well as environmental and public health concerns. Though it is low, the perfectly stable and natural intrinsic fluorescence of sepiolite nanofibers allows to follow their fate into cells by specifically sensitive technics. By combining fluorescence microscopy (including confocal analysis), time-lapse video microscopy, fluorescence activated cell sorting and transmission electron microscopy, we show that sepiolite can be spontaneously internalized into mammalian cells through both non-endocytic and endocytic pathways, macropinocytosis being one of the main pathways. Interestingly, exposure of the cells to endocytosis inhibitors, such as chloroquine, two-fold increase the efficiency of sepiolite-mediated gene transfer, in addition to the 100-fold increased resulting from sepiolite sonomechanical treatment. As sepiolite is able to bind various biological molecules, this nanoparticulate silicate could be a good candidate as a nanocarrier for simultaneous vectorization of diverse biological molecules.

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