Dynamic Equilibrium in the Cetyltrimethylammonium Bromide-Au Nanoparticle Bilayer, and the Consequent Impact on the Formation of the Nanoparticle Protein Corona

Bioconjug Chem. 2019 Nov 20;30(11):2917-2930. doi: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.9b00624. Epub 2019 Nov 4.


Nanoparticles in ionic solutions are usually surrounded by stabilizing molecules that avoid aggregation and determine their surface properties, which strongly influence their behavior. The present work aims to shed light on the static vs dynamic nature of the cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) bilayer on gold nanoparticles and to understand its effects on nanoparticle evolution in biological systems. A systematic study of the CTAB bilayer of Au nanorods and nanospheres was carried out, exploring the role of excess free surfactant in solution on the surface properties of nanoparticles and their colloidal stability. The results indicated the presence of a CTAB bilayer in which the external layer was in rapid dynamic equilibrium with the free surfactant in solution. The internal surfactant layer of the gold nanospheres was also found to be in dynamic equilibrium. Conversely, the gold nanorods had a permanent internal layer. Consequently, the CTAB-nanoparticle dispersions always contained free CTAB in excess to maintain the colloidal stability of the NPs. In contrast, decreasing the free CTAB concentration resulted in nanoparticle aggregation. The impact of the dynamic equilibrium on the exposure of particles to biological fluids and on the formation of the nanoparticle protein corona was studied, revealing the different fates of the nanoparticles, which depended on the amount of free CTAB in solution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cetrimonium Compounds / chemistry*
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Nanotubes / chemistry*
  • Protein Corona / chemistry
  • Protein Corona / metabolism*
  • Surface Properties
  • Surface-Active Agents / chemistry
  • Surface-Active Agents / metabolism*


  • Cetrimonium Compounds
  • Protein Corona
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Gold