Binding of blood proteins to carbon nanotubes reduces cytotoxicity

Cuicui Ge, Jiangfeng Du, Lina Zhao, Liming Wang, Ying Liu, Denghua Li, Yanlian Yang, Ruhong Zhou, Yuliang Zhao, Zhifang Chai, Chunying Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

791 Scopus citations


With the potential wide uses of nanoparticles such as carbon nanotubes in biomedical applications, and the growing concerns of nanotoxicity of these engineered nanoparticles, the importance of nanoparticle-protein interactions cannot be stressed enough. In this study, we use both experimental and theoretical approaches, including atomic force microscope images, fluorescence spectroscopy, CD, SDS-PAGE, and molecular dynamics simulations, to investigate the interactions of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) with human serum proteins, and find a competitive binding of these proteins with different adsorption capacity and packing modes. The π-π stacking interactions between SWCNTs and aromatic residues (Trp, Phe, Tyr) are found to play a critical role in determining their adsorption capacity. Additional cellular cytotoxicity assays, with human acute monocytic leukemia cell line and human umbilical vein endothelial cells, reveal that the competitive bindings of blood proteins on the SWCNTsurface can greatly alter their cellular interaction pathways and result in much reduced cytotoxicity for these protein-coated SWCNTs, according to their respective adsorption capacity. These findings have shed light toward the design of safe carbon nanotube nanomaterials by comprehensive preconsideration of their interactions with human serum proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16968-16973
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 11 2011


  • Competitive adsorption
  • Conformational flexibility
  • Hydrophobic interactions
  • Nanoparticle-protein corona

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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