Differences in interaction of graphene/graphene oxide with bacterial and mammalian cell membranes

Victor Lanai, Yanyan Chen, Elena Naumovska, Santosh Pandit, Elsebeth Schröder, Ivan Mijakovic, Shadi Rahimi

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Graphene, a single layer, hexagonally packed two-dimensional carbon sheet is an attractive candidate for diverse applications including antibacterial potential and drug delivery. One of the knowledge gaps in biomedical application of graphene is the interaction of these materials with the cells. To address this, we investigated the interaction between graphene materials (graphene and graphene oxide) and plasma membranes of cells (bacterial and mammalian cells). The interactions of four of the most abundant phospholipids in bacteria and mammalian plasma membranes with graphene materials were studied using density functional theory (DFT) at the atomic level. The calculations showed that the mammalian phospholipids have stronger bonding to each other compared to bacterial phospholipids. When the graphene/graphene oxide sheet is approaching the phospholipid pairs, the bacterial pairs exhibit less repulsive interactions, thereby a more stable system with the sheets was found. We also assembled bacterial and mammalian phospholipids into liposomes. We further observed that the bacterial liposomes and cells let the graphene flakes penetrate the membrane. The differential scanning calorimetry measurements of liposomes revealed that the bacterial liposomes have the lowest heat capacity; this strengthens the theoretical predictions of weaker interaction between the bacterial phospholipids compared to the mammalian phospholipids. We further demonstrated that graphene oxide could be internalized into the mammalian liposomes without disrupting the membrane integrity. The results suggest that the weak bonding among bacteria phospholipids and less repulsive force when graphene materials approach, result in graphene materials interacting differently with the bacteria compared to mammalian cells.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


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