Thickness and morphology of polyelectrolyte coatings on silica surfaces before and after protein exposure studied by atomic force microscopy

R. Haselberg, F. Flesch, A. Boerke, G.W. Somsen

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Analyte-wall interaction is a significant problem in capillary electrophoresis (CE) as it may compromise separation efficiencies and migration time repeatability. In CE, self-assembled polyelectrolyte multilayer films of Polybrene (PB) and dextran sulfate (DS) or poly(vinylsulfonic acid) (PVS) have been used to coat the capillary inner wall and thereby prevent analyte adsorption. In this study, atomic force microscopy (AFM) was employed to investigate the layer thickness and surface morphology of monolayer (PB), bilayer, (PB-DS and PB-PVS), and trilayer (PB-DS-PB and PB-PVS-PB) coatings on glass surfaces. AFM nanoshaving experiments providing height distributions demonstrated that the coating procedures led to average layer thicknesses between 1. nm (PB) and 5. nm (PB-DS-PB), suggesting the individual polyelectrolytes adhere flat on the silica surface. Investigation of the surface morphology of the different coatings by AFM revealed that the PB coating does not completely cover the silica surface, whereas full coverage was observed for the trilayer coatings. The DS-containing coatings appeared on average 1. nm thicker than the corresponding PVS-containing coatings, which could be attributed to the molecular structure of the anionic polymers applied. Upon exposure to the basic protein cytochrome c, AFM measurements showed an increase of the layer thickness for bare (3.1. nm) and PB-DS-coated (4.6. nm) silica, indicating substantial protein adsorption. In contrast, a very small or no increase of the layer thickness was observed for the PB and PB-DS-PB coatings, demonstrating their effectiveness against protein adsorption. The AFM results are consistent with earlier obtained CE data obtained for proteins using the same polyelectrolyte coatings. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-95
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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