Probing the coverage of nanoparticles by biomimetic membranes through nanoplasmonics

Jacopo Cardellini, Andrea Ridolfi, Melissa Donati, Valentina Giampietro, Mirko Severi, Marco Brucale, Francesco Valle, Paolo Bergese, Costanza Montis, Lucrezia Caselli*, Debora Berti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although promising for biomedicine, the clinical translation of inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) is limited by low biocompatibility and stability in biological fluids. A common strategy to circumvent this drawback consists in disguising the active inorganic core with a lipid bilayer coating, reminiscent of the structure of the cell membrane to redefine the chemical and biological identity of NPs. While recent reports introduced membrane-coating procedures for NPs, a robust and accessible method to quantify the integrity of the bilayer coverage is not yet available. To fill this gap, we prepared SiO2 nanoparticles (SiO2NPs) with different membrane coverage degrees and monitored their interaction with AuNPs by combining microscopic, scattering, and optical techniques. The membrane-coating on SiO2NPs induces spontaneous clustering of AuNPs, whose extent depends on the coating integrity. Remarkably, we discovered a linear correlation between the membrane coverage and a spectral descriptor for the AuNPs’ plasmonic resonance, spanning a wide range of coating yields. These results provide a fast and cost-effective assay to monitor the compatibilization of NPs with biological environments, essential for bench tests and scale-up. In addition, we introduce a robust and scalable method to prepare SiO2NPs/AuNPs hybrids through spontaneous self-assembly, with a high-fidelity structural control mediated by a lipid bilayer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-109
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Early online date23 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by the European Community through the BOW project (H2020-EIC-FETPROACT2019, ID 952183). We also acknowledge MIUR-Italy (“Progetto Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018–2022, ref B96C1700020008” allocated to the Department of Chemistry “Ugo Schiff”) and Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze for economic support.

Funding Information:
Prof. Paolo Arosio and Karl Normak (Biochemical Engineering Laboratory, ETH Zurich, Switzerland) are acknowledged for sharing their knowledge on the membrane composition and preparation of the liposomal models for EVs employed herein, as well as for fruitful discussion on the design of M-SiO2NPs. The Elettra Synchrotron SAXS facility (Basovizza, Trieste, Italy) is acknowledged for beam time (Proposal id: 20212182). We acknowledge the Florence Center for Electron Nanoscopy (FloCEN) at the University of Florence.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Biomimetic nanoparticles
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Gold nanoparticles
  • Membrane-coated nanoparticles
  • Nano-bio interface
  • Nanomedicine
  • Nanoplasmonics
  • Silica nanoparticles


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