The aggregation of striped nanoparticles in mixed phospholipid bilayers†
The unique and adjustable properties of nanoparticles present enormous opportunities for their use as targeted drug delivery vectors. For example, nanoparticles functionalized with key surface ligands have been shown to pass through phospholipid bilayers without causing localised disruption. However, the further effects nanoparticles have on multi-component phospholipid bilayers remain unclear. We use coarse-grained computational models to investigate the structural properties of mixed phospholipid bilayers in the presence of ligand-functionalized nanoparticles. Model bilayers are composed of DPPC, DUPC, DFPC and cholesterol, and the nanoparticles are striped with a hydrophobic-ligand band and charged-ligand spherical caps. Our results show that nanoparticles aggregate near unsaturated phospholipid regions, phospholipid bilayer phase-separation is promoted in the presence of nanoparticles, and the heterogeneous components of a phospholipid bilayer play a significant role in the lateral organization of nanoparticles. This study highlights the need for considering the complexity of realistic phospholipid bilayers when optimising ligand functionalized nanoparticles for efficient drug delivery vectors.