Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 693–704 | Cite as

Intracellular pathway of halloysite nanotubes: potential application for antitumor drug delivery

  • Haoyang Liu
  • Zhi-Gang Wang
  • Shu-Lin Liu
  • Xihui Yao
  • Yun Chen
  • Shirley Shen
  • Yu Wu
  • Weiqun TianEmail author
Materials for life sciences


Natural halloysite nanotubes (HNTs), with nanotubular structure, are attracting considerable attention in recent years. The hollow tubular structure allows HNTs to play an important role in drug delivery system as drug carriers. However, the wide applications of HNTs in biomedicine have been hampered by the lack of sufficient intracellular researches so far. In this study, we systemically investigated the transport mechanisms of HNTs in A549 living cells. The colocalization and inhibition experiments illustrated FITC-labeled HNTs were readily internalized into cells by both clathrin- and caveolae-dependent endocytosis, and the transport pathway of HNTs is an actin- and microtubule-associated process via Golgi apparatus and lysosome. Meanwhile, the cell cycle assay clarified that HNTs can prompt the intracellular transportation of gemcitabine and enhance the gemcitabine concentration in A549 tumor cells. Such elucidation of intracellular transport pathway of HNTs offers insights into the site-specific delivery and cellular internalization of HNTs, which provide a reasonable guidance for the design of novel drug delivery system.



This work was supported by China Scholarship Council (No.201208420587). The authors would also like to thank Prof. Daiwen Pang at Wuhan University for technical help with confocal microscopy and Dr. Matthew Glen and Dr. Lynne Waddington at CSIRO in Australia for technical assistance on SEM and TEM.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Supplementary material

10853_2018_2775_MOESM1_ESM.doc (22.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 23099 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Basic Medical SciencesWuhan UniversityWuhanChina
  2. 2.CSIRO ManufacturingClayton, MelbourneAustralia

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