Effect of particle diameter and surface composition on the spontaneous fusion of monolayer-protected gold nanoparticles with lipid bilayers

Nano Lett. 2013 Sep 11;13(9):4060-7. doi: 10.1021/nl401365n. Epub 2013 Aug 20.


Anionic, monolayer-protected gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have been shown to nondisruptively penetrate cellular membranes. Here, we show that a critical first step in the penetration process is potentially the fusion of such AuNPs with lipid bilayers. Free energy calculations, experiments on unilamellar and multilamellar vesicles, and cell studies all support this hypothesis. Furthermore, we show that fusion is only favorable for AuNPs with core diameters below a critical size that depends on the monolayer composition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Particle Size


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Gold