Interaction of gold nanosurfaces/nanoparticles with collagen-like peptides
Nanotechnology has quickly emerged as a promising research field with potential effects in disease treatments. For example, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have been extensively used in diagnostics and therapeutics. When administrated into human tissues, AuNPs first encounter extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules. Amongst all the ECM components, collagen is the main tension-resisting constituent, whose biofunctional and mechanical properties are strongly dependent on its hierarchical structure. Therefore, an in-depth understanding of the structural response of collagen to the presence of gold nanosurfaces (AuNS) and AuNPs is crucial in terms of clinical applications of AuNPs. However, detailed understanding of the molecular-level and atomic-level interaction between AuNS/AuNPs and collagen in the ECM is elusive. In this study, comprehensive molecular dynamics (MD) simulations have been performed to investigate the molecular behaviour of a collagen molecule segment (CMS) in the presence of AuNS/AuNPs in explicit water, aiming to explore the interaction of AuNS/AuNPs with collagen triple helices at the molecular and atomic levels. The results show that the CMS forms a rapid association with AuNS/AuNPs and undergoes a severe unfolding upon adsorption on AuNS/AuNPs, indicating an unfolding propensity of gold surfaces. We conclude that collagen triple helices unfold readily on AuNS and bare AuNPs, due to the interaction of gold surfaces with the protein backbone. The revealed clear unfolding nature and the unravelled atomic-level unfolding mechanism of collagen triple helices onto AuNPs contribute to the development of AuNPs for biomedical and therapeutic applications, and the design of gold-binding proteins.