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Characterisation of the protein corona using tunable resistive pulse sensing: determining the change and distribution of a particle’s surface charge

Emma L. C. J. Blundell, Matthew J. Healey, Elizabeth Holton, Muttuswamy Sivakumaran, Sarabjit Manstana, Mark Platt

DOI: 10.1007/s00216-016-9678-6
Accepted: 31 May 2016

The zeta potential of the protein corona around carboxyl particles has been measured using tunable resistive pulse sensing (TRPS). A simple and rapid assay for characterising zeta potentials within buffer, serum and plasma is presented monitoring the change, magnitude and distribution of proteins on the particle surface. First, we measure the change in zeta potential of carboxyl-functionalised nanoparticles in solutions that contain biologically relevant concentrations of individual proteins, typically constituted in plasma and serum, and observe a significant difference in distributions and zeta values between room temperature and 37 °C assays. The effect is protein dependent, and the largest difference between the two temperatures is recorded for the γ-globulin protein where the mean zeta potential changes from −16.7 to −9.0 mV for 25 and 37 °C, respectively. This method is further applied to monitor particles placed into serum and/or plasma. A temperature-dependent change is again observed with serum showing a 4.9 mV difference in zeta potential between samples incubated at 25 and 37 °C; this shift was larger than that observed for samples in plasma (0.4 mV). Finally, we monitor the kinetics of the corona reorientation for particles initially placed into serum and then adding 5 % (V/V) plasma. The technology presented offers an interesting insight into protein corona structure and kinetics of formation measured in biologically relevant solutions, i.e. high protein, high salt levels, and its particle-by-particle analysis gives a measure of the distribution of particle zeta potential that may offer a better understanding of the behaviour of nanoparticles in solution.

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