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Ploetz, Evelyn; Zimpel, Andreas; Cauda, Valentina; Bauer, David; Lamb, Don C.; Haisch, Christoph; Zahler, Stefan; Vollmar, Angelika M.; Wuttke, Stefan and Engelke, Hanna (2020): Metal–Organic Framework Nanoparticles Induce Pyroptosis in Cells Controlled by the Extracellular pH. In: Advanced Materials, Vol. 32, No. 19, 1907267 [PDF, 1MB]


Ion homeostasis is essential for cellular survival, and elevated concentrations of specific ions are used to start distinct forms of programmed cell death. However, investigating the influence of certain ions on cells in a controlled way has been hampered due to the tight regulation of ion import by cells. Here, it is shown that lipid‐coated iron‐based metal–organic framework nanoparticles are able to deliver and release high amounts of iron ions into cells. While high concentrations of iron often trigger ferroptosis, here, the released iron induces pyroptosis, a form of cell death involving the immune system. The iron release occurs only in slightly acidic extracellular environments restricting cell death to cells in acidic microenvironments and allowing for external control. The release mechanism is based on endocytosis facilitated by the lipid‐coating followed by degradation of the nanoparticle in the lysosome via cysteine‐mediated reduction, which is enhanced in slightly acidic extracellular environment. Thus, a new functionality of hybrid nanoparticles is demonstrated, which uses their nanoarchitecture to facilitate controlled ion delivery into cells. Based on the selectivity for acidic microenvironments, the described nanoparticles may also be used for immunotherapy: the nanoparticles may directly affect the primary tumor and the induced pyroptosis activates the immune system.

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