Background: Anthropogenic nanoparticles (NPs) have found their way into many goods of everyday life. Inhalation, ingestion and skin contact are potential routes for NPs to enter the body. In particular the digestive tract with its huge absorptive surface area provides a prime gateway for NP uptake. Considering that NPs are covered by luminal gut-constituents en route through the gastrointestinal tract, we wanted to know if such modifications have an influence on the interaction between NPs and enterocytes.
Results: We investigated the consequences of a treatment with various luminal gut-constituents on the adherence of nanoparticles to intestinal epithelial cells. Carboxylated polystyrene particles 20, 100 and 200 nm in size represented our anthropogenic NPs, and differentiated Caco-2 cells served as model for mature enterocytes of the small intestine. Pretreatment with the proteins BSA and casein consistently reduced the adherence of all NPs to the cultured enterocytes, while incubation of NPs with meat extract had no obvious effect on particle adherence. In contrast, contact with intestinal fluid appeared to increase the particle-cell interaction of 20 and 100 nm NPs.
Conclusion: Luminal gut-constituents may both attenuate and augment the adherence of NPs to cell surfaces. These effects appear to be dependent on the particle size as well as on the type of interacting protein. While some proteins will rather passivate particles towards cell attachment, possibly by increasing colloid stability or camouflaging attachment sites, certain components of intestinal fluid are capable to modify particle surfaces in such a way that interactions with cellular surface structures result in an increased binding.