New study by BOW researchers on the front cover of PCCP

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A new study by BOW Project researchers: Lucrezia Caselli, Costanza Montis and Debora Berti (CSGI Florence), Andrea Ridolfi (CSGI Bologna), Tommy Nylander (University of Lund) titled “Interaction of nanoparticles with lipid films: the role of symmetry and shape anisotropy” has been published on the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2022,24, 2762-2776).

The bioactivity, biological fate and cytotoxicity of nanomaterials when they come into contact with living organisms are determined by their interaction with biomacromolecules and biological barriers. In this context, the role of symmetry/shape anisotropy of both the nanomaterials and biological interfaces in their mutual interaction, is a relatively unaddressed issue. The study focuses on the interaction of gold nanoparticles (NPs) of different shapes (nanospheres and nanorods) with biomimetic membranes of different morphology, i.e. flat membranes (2D symmetry, representative of the most common plasma membrane geometry), and cubic membranes (3D symmetry, representative of non-lamellar membranes, found in Nature under certain biological conditions).

For this purpose they used an ensemble of complementary structural techniques, including Neutron Reflectometry, Grazing Incidence Small-Angle Neutron Scattering, on a nanometer lengthscale and Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy on a micrometer length scale. They found out that the structural stability of the membrane towards NPs is dependent on the topological characteristic of the lipid assembly and of the NPs, where a higher symmetry gave higher stability. In addition, Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy analyses highlighted that NPs interact with cubic and lamellar phases according to two distinct mechanisms, related to the different structures of the lipid assemblies. This study for the first time systematically addresses the role of NPs shape in the interaction with lipid assemblies with different symmetry. The results will contribute to improve the fundamental knowledge on lipid interfaces and will provide new insights on the biological function of phase transitions as a response strategy to the exposure of NPs.

The study, unveiling a prominent role of symmetry at the nano-bio interfaces and, more in general, contributing to disentangle the function of non-lamellar structures in biological systems, is part is part of the themed collection 2021 PCCP HOT Articles and PCCP 2021 Emerging Investigators.

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