Using molecular dynamics simulations, it is demonstrated that a partial coating of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) reduces the penetration depth of a graphene nanoflake (GNF) into a phospholipid bilayer by attenuating the hydrophobic force that drives the penetration. As the GNF penetrates the bilayer, the ssDNA remains adsorbed to the GNF outside of the bilayer where it shields the graphene from the surrounding water. The penetration depth is found to be controlled by the amount of ssDNA coating the GNF, with a sparser coating resulting in a deeper penetration since the ssDNA shields less of the GNF surface. As the coating density is increased, the likelihood of the GNF entering the bilayer is reduced where it instead tends to lie flat on the bilayer surface with the sugar phosphate backbone of ssDNA interacting with the hydrophilic lipid head groups. While no bilayer disruption is observed for a partially inserted ssDNA-coated GNF, a larger, bare, partially inserted GNF is found to preferentially extract phospholipids from the bilayer, offering further evidence of lipid extraction as a main cytotoxicity mechanism of GNFs. Therefore, a coating of ssDNA may reduce the cytotoxicity of GNFs by shielding the unfavorable graphene-water interaction, thus preventing graphene penetration and lipid extraction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry