Untangling the Interactions between Anionic Polystyrene Nanoparticles and Lipid Membranes Using Laurdan Fluorescence Spectroscopy and Molecular Simulations

LA Kesner and ZA Piskulich and Q Cui and Z Rosenzweig, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 145, 7962-7973 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/jacs.2c13403

Several classes of synthetic nanoparticles (NPs) induce rearrangements of cell membranes that can affect membrane function. This paper describes the investigation of the interactions between polystyrene nanoparticles and liposomes, which serve as model cell membranes, using a combination of laurdan fluorescence spectroscopy and coarse-grained molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The relative intensities of the gel-like and fluid fluorescent peaks of laurdan, which is embedded in the liposome membranes, are quantified from the areas of deconvoluted lognormal laurdan fluorescence peaks. This provides significant advantages in understanding polymer-membrane interactions. Our study reveals that anionic polystyrene NPs, which are not cross-linked, induce significant membrane rearrangement compared to other cationic or anionic NPs. Coarse-grained MD simulations demonstrate that polymer chains from the anionic polystyrene NP penetrate the liposome membrane. The inner leaflet remains intact throughout this process, though both leaflets show a decrease in lipid packing that is indicative of significant local rearrangement of the liposome membrane. These results are attributed to the formation of a hybrid gel made up of a combination of polystyrene (PS) and lipids that forces water molecules away from laurdan. Our study concludes that a combination of negative surface charge to interact electrostatically with positive charges on the membrane, a hydrophobic core to provide a thermodynamic preference for membrane association, and the ability to extend non-cross linked polymer chains into the liposome membrane are necessary for NPs to cause a significant rearrangement in the liposomes.

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