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Monolayer-protected metal nanoparticles (MPMNs) are a newly discovered class of nanoparticles with an ordered, striped domain structure that can be readily manipulated by altering the ratio of the hydrophobic to hydrophilic ligands. This property makes them uniquely suited to systematic studies of the role of nanostructuring on biomolecule adsorption, a phenomenon of paramount importance in biomaterials design. In this work, we examine the interaction of the simple, globular protein cytochrome C (Cyt C) with MPMN surfaces using experimental protein assays and computational molecular dynamics simulations. Experimental assays revealed that adsorption of Cyt C generally increased with increasing surface polar ligand content, indicative of the dominance of hydrophilic interactions in Cyt C-MPMN binding. Protein-surface adsorption enthalpies calculated from computational simulations employing rigid-backbone coarse-grained Cyt C and MPMN models indicate a monotonic increase in adsorption enthalpy with respect to MPMN surface polarity. These results are in qualitative agreement with experimental results and suggest that Cyt C does not undergo significant structural disruption upon adsorption to MPMN surfaces. Coarse-grained and atomistic simulations furthermore elucidated the important role of lysine in facilitating Cyt C adsorption to MPMN surfaces. The amphipathic character of the lysine side chain enables it to form close contacts with both polar and nonpolar surface ligands simultaneously, rendering it especially important for interactions with surfaces composed of adjacent nanoscale chemical domains. The importance of these structural characteristics of lysine suggests that proteins may be engineered to specifically interact with nanomaterials by targeted incorporation of unnatural amino acids possessing dual affinity to differing chemical motifs.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Chem Soc

Publication Date





1438 - 1450


Adsorption, Cytochromes c, Enzyme Stability, Hydrogen Bonding, Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions, Lysine, Metal Nanoparticles, Molecular Dynamics Simulation, Protein Conformation, Surface Properties, Thermodynamics