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Polymer Brush-Grafted Nanoparticles Preferentially Interact with Opsonins and Albumin

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journal contribution
posted on 29.12.2020, 15:09 by Nikolaus Simon Leitner, Martina Schroffenegger, Erik Reimhult
Nanoparticles find increasing applications in life science and biomedicine. The fate of nanoparticles in a biological system is determined by their protein corona, as remodeling of their surface properties through protein adsorption triggers specific recognition such as cell uptake and immune system clearance and nonspecific processes such as aggregation and precipitation. The corona is a result of nanoparticle–protein and protein–protein interactions and is influenced by particle design. The state-of-the-art design of biomedical nanoparticles is the core–shell structure exemplified by superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) grafted with dense, well-hydrated polymer shells used for biomedical magnetic imaging and therapy. Densely grafted polymer chains form a polymer brush, yielding a highly repulsive barrier to the formation of a protein corona via nonspecific particle–protein interactions. However, recent studies showed that the abundant blood serum protein albumin interacts with dense polymer brush-grafted SPIONs. Herein, we use isothermal titration calorimetry to characterize the nonspecific interactions between human serum albumin, human serum immunoglobulin G, human transferrin, and hen egg lysozyme with monodisperse poly­(2-alkyl-2-oxazoline)-grafted SPIONs with different grafting densities and core sizes. These particles show similar protein interactions despite their different “stealth” capabilities in cell culture. The SPIONs resist attractive interactions with lysozymes and transferrins, but they both show a significant exothermic enthalpic and low exothermic entropic interaction with low stoichiometry for albumin and immunoglobulin G. Our results highlight that protein size, flexibility, and charge are important to predict protein corona formation on polymer brush-stabilized nanoparticles.