Revealing the Pulmonary Surfactant Corona on Silica Nanoparticles by Cryo-Transmission Electron Microscopy
When inhaled nanoparticles (NPs) deposit in alveoli, they transit through the pulmonary surfactant (PS), a biofluid made of proteins and phospholipidic vesicles. They acquire a corona reflecting the PS-nanomaterials interaction. Since the corona determines directly the NPs biological fate, the question of its nature and structure is central. Here, we report on the corona architecture raising after incubation of positive or negative silica particles with Curosurf®, a biomimetic pulmonary surfactant of porcine origin. Using optical, electron and cryo-electron microscopy, we determine the pulmonary surfactant corona structure at different scales of observation. Contrary to common belief, the PS corona is not only constituted by phospholipidic bilayers surrounding NPs but by multiple hybrid structures derived from NPs-vesicles interaction. Statistical analysis of cryo-TEM images provides interesting highlights about the nature of the corona depending on the particle charge. The influence of Curosurf® pre- or post-treatment is also investigated and demonstrate the need of protocols standardization.