Multiple graphene-based therapeutics have recently been developed, however potential risks related to the interaction between nanomaterials and immune cells are still poorly understood. Therefore, studying the impact of graphene oxide on various populations of immune cells is of importance. In this work, we aimed to investigate the effects of PEGylated graphene oxide on monocytes isolated from human peripheral blood. Graphene oxide nanoparticles with lateral sizes of 100–200 nm and 1–5 μm were modified with linear and branched PEG (GO-PEG). Size, elemental composition, and structure of the resulting nanoparticles were characterized. We confirmed that PEG was successfully attached to the graphene oxide surface. The influence of GO-PEG on the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), cytokines, phagocytosis, and viability of monocytes was studied. Uptake of GO-PEG by monocytes depends on PEG structure (linear or branched). Branched PEG decreased the number of GO-PEG nanoparticles per monocyte. The viability of monocytes was not altered by co-cultivation with GO-PEG. GO-PEG decreased the phagocytosis of Escherichia coli in a concentration-dependent manner. ROS formation by monocytes was determined by measuring luminol-, lucigenin-, and dichlorodihydrofluorescein-dependent luminescence. GO-PEG decreased luminescent signal probably due to inactivation of ROS, such as hydroxyl and superoxide radicals. Some types of GO-PEG stimulated secretion of IL-10 by monocytes, but this effect did not correlate with their size or PEG structure.


Keywords: graphene oxide; immune cells; monocytes; viability; polyethylene glycol