Immunomodulatory potential of rapamycin-loaded mesoporous silica nanoparticles: pore size-dependent drug loading, release, and in vitro cellular responses

Ana M. Pérez-Moreno, Carlos J. Aranda, María José Torres, Cristobalina Mayorga, Juan L. Paris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapamycin is a potent immunosuppressive drug that has been recently proposed for a wide range of applications beyond its current clinical use. For some of these proposed applications, encapsulation in nanoparticles is key to ensure therapeutic efficacy and safety. In this work, we evaluate the effect of pore size on mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSN) as rapamycin nanocarriers. The successful preparation of MSN with 4 different pore sizes was confirmed by dynamic light scattering, zeta potential, transmission electron microscopy and N2 adsorption. In these materials, rapamycin loading was pore size-dependent, with smaller pore MSN exhibiting greater loading capacity. Release studies showed sustained drug release from all MSN types, with larger pore MSN presenting faster release kinetics. In vitro experiments using the murine dendritic cell (DC) line model DC2.4 showed that pore size influenced the biological performance of MSN. MSN with smaller pore sizes presented larger nanoparticle uptake by DC2.4 cells, but were also associated with slightly larger cytotoxicity. Further evaluation of DC2.4 cells incubated with rapamycin-loaded MSN also demonstrated a significant effect of MSN pore size on their immunological response. Notably, the combination of rapamycin-loaded MSN with an inflammatory stimulus (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) led to changes in the expression of DC activation markers (CD40 and CD83) and in the production of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α compared to LPS-treated DC without nanoparticles. Smaller-pored MSN induced more substantial reductions in CD40 expression while eliciting increased CD83 expression, indicating potential immunomodulatory effects. These findings highlight the critical role of MSN pore size in modulating rapamycin loading, release kinetics, cellular uptake, and subsequent immunomodulatory responses. Graphical abstract: (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish
JournalDrug Delivery and Translational Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Dendritic cells
  • Immunomodulation
  • Mesoporous silica nanoparticles
  • Nanomedicine
  • Rapamycin


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