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Molecular Understanding of the Penetration of Functionalized Gold Nanoparticles into Asymmetric Membranes

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journal contribution
posted on 30.10.2016, 00:00 by Xuebo Quan, Chunwang Peng, Daohui Zhao, Libo Li, Jun Fan, Jian Zhou
In this work, the interactions between surface-functionalized gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) and asymmetric membranes and the associated cytotoxicity were explored by coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations. Simulation results show that the surface chemistry of AuNPs and the asymmetry of lipid membranes play significant roles. AuNPs with different signs of charges spontaneously adhere to the membrane surface or penetrate the membrane core. Also, the asymmetric distribution of charged lipids in membranes can facilitate the penetration of cationic AuNPs. Increasing the surface charge density (SCD) of AuNPs can not only improve the penetration efficiency but also lead to more disruption of the membrane structure. Moreover, the flip-flop of charged lipids in the inner leaflet can be observed during the translocation of AuNPs with a high SCD. The breakdown of membrane asymmetry may hinder the cellular internalization of AuNPs in a direct penetration mechanism. More importantly, we demonstrate that the hydrophobic contact between protruding solvent-exposed lipid tails and the hydrophobic moieties of ligands can mediate the insertion of AuNPs with a low SCD into cell membranes, which will exhibit less cytotoxicity in most in vivo applications. This may open a new exciting avenue to developing nanocarriers with a higher translocation efficiency and a lower toxicity simultaneously for biomedical applications.