Temperature-Triggered Protein Adsorption on Polymer-Coated Nanoparticles in Serum

Olga Koshkina, Thomas Lang, Raphael Thiermann, Dominic Docter, Roland H. Stauber, Christian Secker, Helmut Schlaad, Steffen Weidner, Benjamin Mohr, Michael Maskos*, Annabelle Bertin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The protein corona, which forms on the nanoparticle's surface in most biological media, determines the nanoparticle's physicochemical characteristics. The formation of the protein corona has a significant impact on the biodistribution and clearance of nanoparticles in vivo. Therefore, the ability to influence the formation of the protein corona is essential to most biomedical applications, including drug delivery and imaging. In this study, we investigate the protein adsorption on nanoparticles with a hydrodynamic radius of 30 nm and a coating of thermoresponsive poly(2-isopropyl-2-oxazoline) in serum. Using multiangle dynamic light scattering (DLS) we demonstrate that heating of the nanoparticles above their phase separation temperature induces the formation of agglomerates, with a hydrodynamic radius of 1 μm. In serum, noticeably stronger agglomeration occurs at lower temperatures compared to serum-free conditions. Cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) revealed a high packing density of agglomerates when serum was not present. In contrast, in the presence of serum, agglomerated nanoparticles were loosely packed, indicating that proteins are intercalated between them. Moreover, an increase in protein content is observed upon heating, confirming that protein adsorption is induced by the alteration of the surface during phase separation. After cooling and switching the surface back, most of the agglomerates were dissolved and the main fraction returned to the original size of approximately 30 nm as shown by asymmetrical flow-field flow fractionation (AF-FFF) and DLS. Furthermore, the amounts of adsorbed proteins are similar before and after heating the nanoparticles to above their phase-separation temperature. Overall, our results demonstrate that the thermoresponsivity of the polymer coating enables turning the corona formation on nanoparticles on and off in situ. As the local heating of body areas can be easily done in vivo, the thermoresponsive coating could potentially be used to induce the agglomeration of nanoparticles and proteins and the accumulation of nanoparticles in a targeted body region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8873-8881
Number of pages9
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • n/a OA procedure


Dive into the research topics of 'Temperature-Triggered Protein Adsorption on Polymer-Coated Nanoparticles in Serum'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this