Membrane Phase Drives the Assembly of Gold Nanoparticles on Biomimetic Lipid Bilayers

Jacopo Cardellini, Lucrezia Caselli, Enrico Lavagna, Sebastian Salassi, Heinz Amenitsch, Martino Calamai, Costanza Montis, Giulia Rossi, Debora Berti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, many efforts have been devoted to investigating the interaction of nanoparticles (NPs) with lipid biomimetic interfaces, both from a fundamental perspective aimed at understanding relevant phenomena occurring at the nanobio interface and from an application standpoint for the design of novel lipid-nanoparticle hybrid materials. In this area, recent reports have revealed that citrate-capped gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) spontaneously associate with synthetic phospholipid liposomes and, in some cases, self-assemble on the lipid bilayer. However, the mechanistic and kinetic aspects of this phenomenon are not yet completely understood. In this study, we address the kinetics of interaction of citrate-capped AuNP with lipid vesicles of different rigidities (gel-phase rigid membranes on one side and liquid-crystalline-phase soft membranes on the other). The formation of AuNP-lipid vesicle hybrids was monitored over different time and length scales, combining experiments and simulation. The very first AuNP-membrane contact was addressed through molecular dynamics simulations, while the structure, morphology, and physicochemical features of the final colloidal objects were studied through UV-visible spectroscopy, small-angle X-ray scattering, dynamic light scattering, and cryogenic electron microscopy. Our results highlight that the physical state of the membrane triggers a series of events at the colloidal length scale, which regulate the final morphology of the AuNP-lipid vesicle adducts. For lipid vesicles with soft membranes, the hybrids appear as single vesicles decorated by AuNPs, while more rigid membranes lead to flocculation with AuNPs acting as bridges between vesicles. Overall, these results contribute to a mechanistic understanding of the adhesion or self-assembly of AuNPs onto biomimetic membranes, which is relevant for phenomena occurring at the nano-bio interfaces and provide design principles to control the morphology of lipid vesicle-inorganic NP hybrid systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4483-4494
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Energy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science
  • Human- & Biotechnology


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