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Stealth Nanoparticles Grafted with Dense Polymer Brushes Display Adsorption of Serum Protein Investigated by Isothermal Titration Calorimetry

Gal, Noga, Schroffenegger, Martina, Reimhult, Erik
The Journal of physical chemistry 2018 v.122 no.22 pp. 5820-5834
Gibbs free energy, acrylamides, adsorption, ambient temperature, blood proteins, body temperature, calorimetry, energy, heat production, hydrogen bonding, iron oxides, nanoparticles, polyethylene glycol, stoichiometry, titration
Core–shell nanoparticles receive much attention for their current and potential applications in life sciences. Commonly, a dense shell of hydrated polymer, a polymer brush, is grafted to improve colloidal stability of functional nanoparticles and to prevent protein adsorption, aggregation, cell recognition, and uptake. Until recently, it was widely assumed that a polymer brush shell indeed prevents strong association of proteins and that this leads to their superior “stealth” properties in vitro and in vivo. We show using T-dependent isothermal titration calorimetry on well-characterized monodisperse superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles with controlled dense stealth polymer brush shells that “stealth” core–shell nanoparticles display significant attractive exothermic and enthalpic interactions with serum proteins, despite having excellent colloidal stability and negligible nonspecific cell uptake. This observation is at room temperature shown to depend only weakly on variation of iron oxide core diameter and type of grafted stealth polymer: poly(ethylene glycol), poly(ethyl oxazoline), poly(isopropyl oxazoline), and poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide). Polymer brush shells with a critical solution temperature close to body temperature showed a strong temperature dependence in their interactions with proteins with a significant increase in protein binding energy with increased temperature. The stoichiometry of interaction is estimated to be near 1:1 for PEGylated nanoparticles and up to 10:1 for larger thermoresponsive nanoparticles, whereas the average free energy of interaction is enthalpically driven and comparable to a weak hydrogen bond.