Size matters: Size Dependency of Gold Nanoparticles Interacting with Model Membranes

The rapid development of nanomaterials has led to an increase in the number and variety of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in the environment. Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are an example of a commonly studied ENM whose highly tailorable properties have generated significant interest through a wide range of research fields. In the present work, we report the first qualitative as well as quantitative experimental characterisation of the AuNP-membrane interaction. We investigate the interactions between citrate-stabilised AuNPs (diameters 5, 10, 25, 35, 50, 60 nm) and large unilamellar vesicles (LUVs) acting as a model membrane system. LUVs were prepared in two different formulations using 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) and 1,2-dileoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC). Our results show that the interaction between AuNPs and LUVs is size dependent; in particular, we reveal the existence of two AuNP’s critical diameters which determine the fate of AuNPs in contact with a lipid membrane. The results provide a new understanding of the size dependent interaction between AuNPs and lipid bilayers of direct relevance to nanotoxicology and to the design of NP vectors.