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Interactions of neutral gold nanoparticles with DPPC and POPC lipid bilayers: simulation and experiment

Zolghadr, Amin Reza, Moosavi, Sedigheh Saddat
RSC advances 2019 v.9 no.9 pp. 5197-5205
Gibbs free energy, adsorption, endocytosis, energy, hydrophobicity, ion channels, lipid bilayers, molecular dynamics, nanogold, phospholipids, simulation models
Molecular dynamics simulations of neutral gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) interacting with dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) membranes were studied using a model system. Spontaneous membrane insertion of AuNPs did not occur on the time scale of atomistic simulations. To overcome the limitations of time scale, we used a harmonic restraining potential to force the AuNPs into the membranes. Free energy calculations indicate that a NP has to cross a free energy barrier of about 134 kJ mol⁻¹ prior to forming a stable contact with the membrane. This energy barrier between lipids and NPs comes from the repulsion between headgroups of lipids and AuNPs. The experimental investigations indicate that, contrary to hydrophobic AuNPs, neutral AuNPs cannot form ion channels across lipid membranes. The adsorption of NPs induces the formation of a highly ordered region in phospholipid bilayers. Our simulation results propose that the cell penetration of small uncoated AuNPs does not involve energy-independent membrane translocation but rather involves the energy-dependent formation of nanoscale membrane holes or energy-dependent endocytosis.