Interactions between silica nanoparticles and phospholipid membranes

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Sep;1858(9):2163-2170. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2016.06.023. Epub 2016 Jun 24.


Silica nanoparticles (SNPs) are widely used for biomedical applications. However, their parenteral administration may induce hemolysis. Molecular mechanisms leading to this effect are still controversially discussed. We therefore used a combination of biophysical techniques to investigate the interaction of hemolytic and non-hemolytic SNPs with model phospholipid membranes.

Methods: Interaction of SNPs with membranes was studied using a dye-leakage assay, dynamic light scattering (DLS), isothermal titration calorimetry, and solid state nuclear magnetic resonance.

Results and discussion: The dye leakage assay revealed that only hemolytic, negatively charged SNPs, but not non-hemolytic positively charged SNPs, destabilized POPC based phospholipid bilayers. Interaction of SNPs with lipid vesicles leading to particle agglomeration was demonstrated by DLS. Isothermal titration calorimetry confirmed the interaction between negatively charged SNPs and phospholipids, which is characterized by an exothermic reaction enthalpy ΔH(0)SNP of -0.04cal/g at 25°C. Calorimetric titrations at different temperatures revealed a molar heat capacity change of zero. This finding excluded a contribution of electrostatic interactions. Mechanistic insight was provided by solid state phosphorus-31 NMR and deuterium NMR measurements.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that electrostatic interaction between hemolytic SNPs and model phospholipid membranes is negligible. SNPs induce membrane destabilization and adsorptive processes induced by agglomeration of phospholipid vesicles. The interaction is driven by van der Waals forces at the level of the hydration layer on the vesicles surface.

Keywords: Hemolysis; Isothermal titration calorimetry; Silica nanoparticles; Solid state nuclear magnetic resonance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Deuterium Exchange Measurement
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / chemistry*
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry*


  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • 1,2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine