18 pages, 6 figuresInorganic nanomaterials and particles with enhanced optical, mechanical or magnetic attributes are currently being developed for a wide range of applications. Safety issues have been formulated however concerning their potential cyto- and genotoxicity. For in vivo and in vitro experimentations, recent developments have heightened the need of simple and facile methods to measure the amount of nanoparticles taken up by cells or tissues. In this work, we present a rapid and highly sensitive method for quantifying the uptake of iron oxide nanoparticles in mammalian cells. Our approach exploits the digestion of incubated cells with concentrated hydrochloric acid reactant and a colorimetric based UV-Visible absorption technique. The technique allows the detection of iron in cells over 4 decades in masses, from 0.03 to 300 picograms per cell. Applied on particles of different surface chemistry and sizes, the protocol demonstrates that the coating is the key parameter in the nanoparticle/cell interactions. The data are corroborated by scanning and transmission electron microscopy and stress the importance of resiliently adsorbed nanoparticles at the plasma membrane
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