Role of nanoparticle surface functionality in the disruption of model cell membranes

Babak Y. Moghadam, Wen Che Hou, Charlie Corredor, Paul Westerhoff, Jonathan D. Posner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Lipid bilayers are biomembranes common to cellular life and constitute a continuous barrier between cells and their environment. Understanding the interaction of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) with lipid bilayers is an important step toward predicting subsequent biological effects. In this study, we assess the effect of varying the surface functionality and concentration of 10-nm-diameter gold (Au) and titanium dioxide (TiO2) ENMs on the disruption of negatively charged lipid bilayer vesicles (liposomes) using a dye-leakage assay. Our findings show that Au ENMs having both positive and negative surface charge induce leakage that reaches a steady state after several hours. Positively charged particles with identical surface functionality and different core compositions show similar leakage effects and result in faster and greater leakage than negatively charged particles, which suggests that surface functionality, not particle core composition, is a critical factor in determining the interaction between ENMs and lipid bilayers. The results suggest that particles permanently adsorb to bilayers and that only one positively charged particle is required to disrupt a liposome and trigger the leakage of its entire contents in contrast to mellitin molecules, the most widely studied membrane lytic peptide, which requires hundred of molecules to generate leakage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16318-16326
Number of pages9
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Nov 27

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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