Gold nanorods (AuNRs) have been used in plasmonic photothermal therapy (PPTT), which is thought to be more efficient and selective than conventional photothermal therapy. The efficiency and safety of PPTT can be improved by functionally modifying the gold nanorods with proteins or biomolecules. In this study, AuNRs were modified with anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibody (mAb), and the apoptotic potential of EGFRmAb-AuNR was assessed in Hep-2 cells in vitro and in vivo. The EGFRmAb modification had no obvious influence on the original optical property of the AuNRs, but it significantly increased the entry of AuNRs into Hep-2 cells. EGFRmAb-AuNRs, with appropriate laser irradiation, resulted in higher Hep-2 cells apoptosis than AuNRs did alone, in vitro, and was accompanied by alteration of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, Ca(2+) release, change in mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm), cytochrome c (Cyt-c) release, active caspase-3 expression, and level of B-cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2) and B-cell lymphoma 2 protein-associated X protein (Bax). EGFRmAb-AuNR-mediated apoptosis in Hep-2 cells was also observed in vivo and had an inhibitive effect on growth of Hep-2 tumor xenografts. Our data suggest that the EGFRmAb modification improves AuNR-mediated apoptosis and may have the potential to be used clinically.
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