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Background: Lipid-based dispersion of nanoparticles provides a biologically inspired route to designing therapeutic agents and a means of reducing nanoparticle toxicity. Little is currently known on how the presence of nanoparticles influences lipid vesicle stability and bilayer phase behavior. In this work, the formation of aqueous lipid/nanoparticle assemblies (LNAs) consisting of hydrophobic silver-decanethiol particles (5.7 ± 1.8 nm) embedded within 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine (DPPC) bilayers is demonstrated as a function of the DPPC/Ag nanoparticle (AgNP) ratio. The effect of nanoparticle loading on the size distribution, bilayer phase behavior, and bilayer fluidity is determined. Concomitantly, the effect of bilayer incorporation on the optical properties of the AgNPs is also examined.

Results: The dispersions were stable at 50°C where the bilayers existed in a liquid crystalline state, but phase separated at 25°C where the bilayers were in a gel state, consistent with vesicle aggregation below the lipid melting temperature. Formation of bilayer-embedded nanoparticles was confirmed by differential scanning calorimetry and fluorescence anisotropy, where increasing nanoparticle concentration suppressed the lipid pretransition temperature, reduced the melting temperature, and disrupted gel phase bilayers. The characteristic surface plasmon resonance (SPR) wavelength of the embedded nanoparticles was independent of the bilayer phase; however, the SPR absorbance was dependent on vesicle aggregation.

Conclusion: These results suggest that lipid bilayers can distort to accommodate large hydrophobic nanoparticles, relative to the thickness of the bilayer, and may provide insight into nanoparticle/biomembrane interactions and the design of multifunctional liposomal carriers.

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