Preferential interactions of primary amine-terminated quantum dots with membrane domain boundaries and lipid rafts revealed with nanometer resolution†
The initial interactions of engineered nanoparticles (NPs) with living cells are governed by physicochemical properties of the NP and the molecular composition and structure of the cell membrane. Eukaryotic cell membranes contain lipid rafts – liquid-ordered nanodomains involved in membrane trafficking and molecular signaling. However, the impact of these membrane structures on cellular interactions of NPs remains unclear. Here we investigate the role of membrane domains in the interactions of primary amine-terminated quantum dots (Qdots) with liquid-ordered domains or lipid rafts in model membranes and intact cells, respectively. Using correlative atomic force and fluorescence microscopy, we found that the Qdots preferentially localized to boundaries between liquid-ordered and liquid-disordered phases in supported bilayers. The Qdots also induced holes at these phase boundaries. Using super resolution fluorescence microscopy (STORM), we found that the Qdots preferentially co-localized with lipid rafts in the membrane of intact trout gill epithelial cells – a model cell type for environmental exposures. Our observations uncovered preferential interactions of amine-terminated Qdots with liquid-ordered domains and their boundaries, possibly due to membrane curvature at phase boundaries creating energetically favorable sites for NP interactions. The preferential interaction of the Qdots with lipid rafts supports their potential internalization via lipid raft-mediated endocytosis and interactions with raft-resident signaling molecules.