Graphene Oxide Flakes Tune Excitatory Neurotransmission in Vivo by Targeting Hippocampal Synapses

Rossana Rauti, Manuela Medelin, Leon Newman, Sandra Vranic, Giacomo Reina, Alberto Bianco, Maurizio Prato, Kostas Kostarelos*, Laura Ballerini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synapses compute and transmit information to connect neural circuits and are at the basis of brain operations. Alterations in their function contribute to a vast range of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders and synapse-based therapeutic intervention, such as selective inhibition of synaptic transmission, may significantly help against serious pathologies. Graphene is a two-dimensional nanomaterial largely exploited in multiple domains of science and technology, including biomedical applications. In hippocampal neurons in culture, small graphene oxide nanosheets (s-GO) selectively depress glutamatergic activity without altering cell viability. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and growing evidence suggests its involvement in neuropsychiatric disorders. Here we demonstrate that s-GO directly targets the release of presynaptic vesicle. We propose that s-GO flakes reduce the availability of transmitter, via promoting its fast release and subsequent depletion, leading to a decline ofglutamatergic neurotransmission. We injected s-GO in the hippocampus in vivo, and 48 h after surgery ex vivo patch-clamp recordings from brain slices show a significant reduction in glutamatergic synaptic activity in respect to saline injections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2858-2870
Number of pages13
JournalNano Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - 8 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Graphene
  • glutamate
  • hippocampal network
  • quantum dots
  • synapses


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