Stainless steel modified with poly(ethylene glycol) can prevent protein adsorption but not bacterial adhesion

Jiang Wei, Dorthe Bagge, Lone Gram, Peter Kingshott

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The surface of AISI 316 grade stainless steel (SS) was modified with a layer of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) (molecular weight 5000) with the aim of preventing protein adsorption and bacterial adhesion. Model SS substrates were first modified to introduce a very high density of reactive amine groups by the adsorption of branched poly(ethylenimine) (PEI) from water. Methoxy-terminated aldehyde-poly(ethylene glycol) (M-PEG-CHO) was then grafted onto the PEI layers using reductive amination at the lower critical solution temperature (LCST) of the PEG in order to optimize the graft density of the linear PEG chains. The chemical composition and uniformity of the surfaces were determined using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and time-of-flight static secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SSIMS) in the imaging mode. The effects of PEI concentration and different substrate pre-cleaning methods on the structure and stability of the final PEG layer was examined. Piranha solution proved to be the most effective method for removing adventitious hydrocarbon contamination, compared to cleaning with ultrasonication in organic solvents, and was the SS substrate that produced the most stable and thickest PEI layer. The surface density of PEI was shown to increase with increasing PEI concentration (up to 30 mg/ml), as determined from XPS measurements, and subsequently produced the PEG layer with the highest density of attached chains. In model experiments using beta-lactoglobulin no protein adsorption was detected on the optimized PEG surface as determined by XPS and ToF-SSIMS analysis. However, neither the adhesion of a Gram-negative (Pseudomonas sp.) nor a Gram-positive (Listeria monocytogenes) bacterium was affected by the coating as equal numbers adhered to all surfaces tested. Our results show that preventing protein adsorption is not a prerequisite stopping bacterial adhesion, and that other mechanisms most likely play a role. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)275-291
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Protein adsorption
  • Bacterial adhesion
  • XPS
  • ToF-SIMS

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