Disruption of supported lipid bilayers by semihydrophobic nanoparticles

J Am Chem Soc. 2011 Jul 20;133(28):10983-9. doi: 10.1021/ja2040305. Epub 2011 Jun 22.


Understanding the interaction between functional nanoparticles and cell membranes is critical to use nanomaterials for broad biomedical applications with minimal cytotoxicity. In this work, we have investigated the effect of adsorbed semihydrophobic nanoparticles (NPs) on the dynamics and morphology of model cell membranes. We have systematically varied the degree of surface hydrophobicity of carboxyl end-functionalized polystyrene NPs of varied size in buffer solutions with varied ionic strength. It is observed that semihydrophobic NPs can readily adsorb on neutral SLBs and drag lipids from SLBs to NP surfaces. Above a critical NP concentration, the disruption of SLBs is observed, accompanied with the formation and rapid growth of lipid-poor regions on NP-adsorbed SLBs. In the study of the effect of solution ionic strength on NP surface hydrophobic degree and the growth of lipid-poor regions, we have concluded that the hydrophobic interaction enhanced by screened electrostatic interaction underlies the envelopment of NPs by lipids that are attracted from SLBs to the surface of NPs or their aggregates. Hence, the formation and growth of lipid-poor regions, or vaguely referred as "pores" or "holes" in the literature, can be controlled by NP concentration, size, and surface hydrophobicity, which is critical to design functional nanomaterials for effective nanomedicine while minimizing possible cytotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Diffusion
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Osmolar Concentration


  • Lipid Bilayers