Fusion of Ligand-Coated Nanoparticles with Lipid Bilayers: Effect of Ligand Flexibility

TitleFusion of Ligand-Coated Nanoparticles with Lipid Bilayers: Effect of Ligand Flexibility
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsVan Lehn, RC, Alexander-Katz, A
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Volume118
Issue31
Pagination5848 - 5856
Date Published2014/08/07/
Abstract

Amphiphilic, monolayer-protected gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have recently been shown to insert into and fuse with lipid bilayers, driven by the hydrophobic effect. The inserted transmembrane state is stabilized by the "snorkeling" of charged ligand end groups out of the bilayer interior. This snorkeling process is facilitated by the backbone flexibility of the alkanethiol ligands that comprise the monolayer. In this work, we show that fusion is favorable even in the absence of backbone flexibility by modeling the ligands as rigid rods. For rigid ligands, snorkeling is still accommodated by rotations of the ligand with respect to the grafting point, but the process incurs a more significant free energy penalty than if the backbone were fully flexible. We show that the rigid rod model predicts similar trends in the free energy change for insertion as the previous flexible model when the size of the AuNPs is varied. However, the rigidity of the ligand backbone reduces the overall magnitude of the free energy change compared to that of the flexible model. These results thus generalize previous findings to systems with hindered backbone flexibility due to either structural constraints or low temperature.