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Behavior of Citrate-Capped Ultrasmall Gold Nanoparticles on a Supported Lipid Bilayer Interface at Atomic Resolution

Kariuki, Rashad; Penman, Rowan; Bryant, Saffron J.; Orrell-Trigg, Rebecca; Meftahi, Nastaran; Crawford, Russell J.; McConville, Chris F.; Bryant, Gary; Voïtchovsky, Kislon; Conn, Charlotte E.; Christofferson, Andrew J.; Elbourne, Aaron


Rashad Kariuki

Rowan Penman

Saffron J. Bryant

Rebecca Orrell-Trigg

Nastaran Meftahi

Russell J. Crawford

Chris F. McConville

Gary Bryant

Charlotte E. Conn

Andrew J. Christofferson

Aaron Elbourne


Nanomaterials have the potential to transform biological and biomedical research, with applications ranging from drug delivery and diagnostics to targeted interference of specific biological processes. Most existing research is aimed at developing nanomaterials for specific tasks such as enhanced biocellular internalization. However, fundamental aspects of the interactions between nanomaterials and biological systems, in particular, membranes, remain poorly understood. In this study, we provide detailed insights into the molecular mechanisms governing the interaction and evolution of one of the most common synthetic nanomaterials in contact with model phospholipid membranes. Using a combination of atomic force microscopy (AFM) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we elucidate the precise mechanisms by which citrate-capped 5 nm gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) interact with supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) of pure fluid (DOPC) and pure gel-phase (DPPC) phospholipids. On fluid-phase DOPC membranes, the AuNPs adsorb and are progressively internalized as the citrate capping of the NPs is displaced by the surrounding lipids. AuNPs also interact with gel-phase DPPC membranes where they partially embed into the outer leaflet, locally disturbing the lipid organization. In both systems, the AuNPs cause holistic perturbations throughout the bilayers. AFM shows that the lateral diffusion of the particles is several orders of magnitude smaller than that of the lipid molecules, which creates some temporary scarring of the membrane surface. Our results reveal how functionalized AuNPs interact with differing biological membranes with mechanisms that could also have implications for cooperative membrane effects with other molecules.


Kariuki, R., Penman, R., Bryant, S. J., Orrell-Trigg, R., Meftahi, N., Crawford, R. J., …Elbourne, A. (2022). Behavior of Citrate-Capped Ultrasmall Gold Nanoparticles on a Supported Lipid Bilayer Interface at Atomic Resolution. ACS Nano, 16(10), 17179-17196.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 19, 2022
Publication Date Oct 25, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 16, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 20, 2023
Journal ACS Nano
Print ISSN 1936-0851
Electronic ISSN 1936-086X
Publisher American Chemical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 10
Pages 17179-17196


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Supporting Information

Accepted Journal Article (4.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of a Published Work that appeared in final form in ACS Nano, copyright © 2022 American Chemical Society after peer review and technical editing by the publisher. To access the final edited and published work see

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