NIR-light triggered delivery of macromolecules into the cytosol

Susana Carregal-Romero, Markus Ochs, Pilar Rivera-Gil, Carolin Ganas, Anton M. Pavlov, Gleb B. Sukhorukov, Wolfgang J. Parak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


Light-responsive microcapsules constructed by layer-by-layer self-assembly are used as microcarriers to deliver different macromolecules inside cells. The microcapsules carry the macromolecules as cargo in their cavity, while their walls are modified with agglomerated gold nanoparticles. Microcapsules are incorporated by living cells and are then located in lysosomal compartments. Controlled release of the encapsulated material from the interior of the capsule to the cytosol is possible upon NIR-light irradiation. This is based on local heating of the gold nanoparticles upon NIR light and disruption of the capsule wall, what results on release of encapsulated materials. We illustrate several key advances in controlled release induced by light. First, we demonstrate that capsules can be opened individually, which allows for sequentially releasing cargo from different capsules within one single cell. Second, by using a pH-indicator as cargo the claim of release from the acidic lysosomal compartments to the neutral cytosol is experimentally evident which until now has been only speculated. Third, green fluorescent protein (GFP) is released to the cytosol while retaining its functionality. This demonstrates that proteins can be released without destruction by the local heating. Fourth, GFP is also administered in biodegradable capsules, which leads to a different release mechanism compared to externally triggering for light-responsive microcapsules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-127
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Controlled release
  • Enzymatic degradation
  • Light stimuli-responsive
  • pH sensor
  • Polyelectrolyte capsules
  • Protein


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