Nanoparticle interactions with cellular membranes are controlled by molecular recognition reactions and regulate a multitude of biological processes, including virus infections, biological nanoparticle-mediated cellular communication, and drug delivery applications. Aided by the design of various supported cell membrane mimics, multiple methods have been employed to investigate these types of interactions, revealing information on nanoparticle coverage, interaction kinetics, as well as binding strength; however, precise quantification of the separation distance across which these delicate interactions occur remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate that carefully designed neutron reflectometry (NR) experiments followed by an attentive selection and application of suitable theoretical models offer a means to quantify the distance separating biological nanoparticles from a supported lipid bilayer (SLB) with sub-nanometer precision. The distance between the nanoparticles and SLBs was tuned by exploiting either direct adsorption or specific binding using DNA tethers with different conformations, revealing separation distances of around 1, 3, and 7 nm with nanometric accuracy. We also show that NR provides precise information on nanoparticle coverage, size distribution, material composition, and potential structural changes in the underlying planar SLB induced upon nanoparticle binding. The precision with which these parameters could be quantified should pave an attractive path for investigations of the interactions between nanoparticles and interfaces at length scales and resolutions that were previously inaccessible. This thus makes it possible to, for example, gain an in-depth understanding of the molecular recognition reactions of inorganic and biological nanoparticles with cellular membranes.
Probing the Separation Distance between Biological Nanoparticles and Cell Membrane Mimics Using Neutron Reflectometry with Sub-Nanometer Accuracy / Armanious, Antonius; Gerelli, Yuri; Micciulla, Samantha; Pace, Hudson P; Welbourn, Rebecca J L; Sjöberg, Mattias; Agnarsson, Björn; Höök, Fredrik. - In: JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY. - ISSN 0002-7863. - ELETTRONICO. - 144:45(2022), pp. 20726-20738. [10.1021/jacs.2c08456]