Preferential and Increased Uptake of Hydroxyl-Terminated PAMAM Dendrimers by Activated Microglia in Rabbit Brain Mixed Glial Culture

Yossef Alnasser, Siva P. Kambhampati, Elizabeth Nance, Labchan Rajbhandari, Shiva Shrestha, Arun Venkatesan, Rangaramanujam M. Kannan, Sujatha Kannan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers are multifunctional nanoparticles with tunable physicochemical features, making them promising candidates for targeted drug delivery in the central nervous system (CNS). Systemically administered dendrimers have been shown to localize in activated glial cells, which mediate neuroinflammation in the CNS. These dendrimers delivered drugs specifically to activated microglia, producing significant neurological improvements in multiple brain injury models, including in a neonatal rabbit model of cerebral palsy. To gain further insight into the mechanism of dendrimer cell uptake, we utilized an in vitro model of primary glial cells isolated from newborn rabbits to assess the differences in hydroxyl-terminated generation 4 PAMAM dendrimer (D4-OH) uptake by activated and non-activated glial cells. We used fluorescently-labelled D4-OH (D-Cy5) as a tool for investigating the mechanism of dendrimer uptake. D4-OH PAMAM dendrimer uptake was determined by fluorescence quantification using confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. Our results indicate that although microglial cells in the mixed cell population demonstrate early uptake of dendrimers in this in vitro system, activated microglia take up more dendrimer compared to resting microglia. Astrocytes showed delayed and limited uptake. We also illustrated the differences in mechanism of uptake between resting and activated microglia using different pathway inhibitors. Both resting and activated microglia primarily employed endocytotic pathways, which are enhanced in activated microglial cells. Additionally, we demonstrated that hydroxyl terminated dendrimers are taken up by primary microglia using other mechanisms including pinocytosis, caveolae, and aquaporin channels for dendrimer uptake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberY
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018


  • Activated microglia
  • Enhanced cellular uptake
  • Intracellular trafficking
  • Mixed primary glial cultures
  • Neuroinflammation
  • PAMAM hydroxyl dendrimers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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