Certain drugs such as dalargin, loperamide or tubocurarine are not transported across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and therefore exhibit no effects on the central nervous system. However, effects on the central nervous system can be observed when these drugs are loaded onto polybutylcyanoacrylate (PBCA)-nanoparticles and coated with polysorbate 80. The mechanism by which these complexed nanoparticles cross the BBB and exhibit their effects has not been elucidated. Cultured microvessel brain endothelial cells of human and bovine origin were used as an in vitro model for the BBB to gain further insight into the mechanism of uptake of nanoparticles. With cells from these species we were able to show that polysorbate 80-coated nanoparticles were taken up by brain endothelial cells much more rapidly and in significantly higher amounts (20-fold) than uncoated nanoparticles. The process of uptake was followed by fluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The results demonstrate that the nanoparticles are taken up by cells and that this uptake occurs via an endocytotic mechanism.