Biomembrane disruption by silica-core nanoparticles: Effect of surface functional group measured using a tethered bilayer lipid membrane

Ying Liu, Zhen Zhang, Quanxuan Zhang, Gregory L. Baker, R. Mark Worden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Engineered nanomaterials (ENM) have desirable properties that make them well suited for many commercial applications. However, a limited understanding of how ENM's properties influence their molecular interactions with biomembranes hampers efforts to design ENM that are both safe and effective. This paper describes the use of a tethered bilayer lipid membrane (tBLM) to characterize biomembrane disruption by functionalized silica-core nanoparticles. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy was used to measure the time trajectory of tBLM resistance following nanoparticle exposure. Statistical analysis of parameters from an exponential resistance decay model was then used to quantify and analyze differences between the impedance profiles of nanoparticles that were unfunctionalized, amine-functionalized, or carboxyl-functionalized. All of the nanoparticles triggered a decrease in membrane resistance, indicating nanoparticle-induced disruption of the tBLM. Hierarchical clustering allowed the potency of nanoparticles for reducing tBLM resistance to be ranked in the order amine > carboxyl ~ bare silica. Dynamic light scattering analysis revealed that tBLM exposure triggered minor coalescence for bare and amine-functionalized silica nanoparticles but not for carboxyl-functionalized silica nanoparticles. These results indicate that the tBLM method can reproducibly characterize ENM-induced biomembrane disruption and can distinguish the BLM-disruption patterns of nanoparticles that are identical except for their surface functional groups. The method provides insight into mechanisms of molecular interaction involving biomembranes and is suitable for miniaturization and automation for high-throughput applications to help assess the health risk of nanomaterial exposure or identify ENM having a desired mode of interaction with biomembranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number1 PARTB
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This manuscript is in memory of our colleague Dr. Gregory L. Baker who passed away unexpectedly while this paper was being written. Dr. Baker was responsible for the generation and characterization of the nanoparticles used in this study. This research was funded by NIH 5RC2ES018756-02 .


  • Aggregation
  • Electrochemical impedance
  • Lipid bilayer
  • Resistance
  • Silica nanoparticle


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