Bacterial adhesion on hybrid cationic nanoparticle-polymer brush surfaces: ionic strength tunes capture from monovalent to multivalent binding

Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces. 2011 Oct 1;87(1):109-15. doi: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2011.05.010. Epub 2011 May 10.


This paper describes the creation of hybrid surfaces containing cationic nanoparticles and biocompatible PEG (polyethylene glycol) brushes that manipulate bacterial adhesion for potential diagnostic and implant applications. Here, ∼10 nm cationically functionalized gold nanoparticles are immobilized randomly on negative silica surfaces at tightly controlled surface loadings, and the remaining areas are functionalized with a hydrated PEG brush, using a graft copolymer of poly-l-lysine and PEG (PLL-PEG), containing 2000 molecular weight PEG chains and roughly 30% functionalization of the PLL. The cationic nanoparticles attract the negative surfaces of suspended Staphylococcus aureus bacteria while the PEG brush exerts a steric repulsion. With the nanoparticle and PEG brush heights on the same lengthscale, variations in ionic strength are demonstrated to profoundly influence the capture of S. aureus on these surfaces. For bacteria captured from gentle flow, a crossover from multivalent to univalent binding is demonstrated as the Debye length is increased from 1 to 4 nm. In the univalent regime, 1 um diameter spherical bacteria are captured and held by single nanoparticles. In the multivalent regime, there is an adhesion threshold in the surface density of nanoparticles needed for bacterial capture. The paper also documents an interesting effect concerning the relaxations in the PLL-PEG brush itself. For brushy surfaces containing no nanoparticles, bacterial adhesion persists on newly formed brushes, but is nearly eliminated after these brushes relax, at constant mass in buffer for 12h. Thus brushy relaxations increase biocompatibility.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Adhesion / drug effects*
  • Cations
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Polyethylene Glycols / pharmacology*
  • Polylysine / pharmacology*
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Staphylococcus aureus / cytology*
  • Static Electricity
  • Surface Properties / drug effects


  • Cations
  • Polylysine
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Silicon Dioxide