Surfactant-free colloidal particles with specific binding affinity
Colloidal particles with specific binding affinity are essential for in vivo and in vitro biosensing, targeted drug delivery, and micrometer-scale self-assembly. Key to these techniques are surface functionalizations that provide high affinities to specific target molecules. For stabilization in physiological environments, current particle coating methods rely on adsorbed surfactants. However, spontaneous desorption of these surfactants typically has an undesirable influence on lipid membranes. To address this issue and create particles for targeting molecules in lipid membranes, we present here a surfactant-free coating method that combines high binding affinity with stability at physiological conditions. After activating charge-stabilized polystyrene microparticles with EDC/Sulfo-NHS, we first coat the particles with a specific protein and subsequently covalently attach a dense layer of poly(ethyelene) glycol. This polymer layer provides colloidal stability at physiological conditions as well as antiadhesive properties, while the protein coating provides the specific affinity to the targeted molecule. We show that NeutrAvidin-functionalized particles bind specifically to biotinylated membranes and that Concanavalin A-functionalized particles bind specifically to the glycocortex of Dictyostelium discoideum cells. The affinity of the particles changes with protein density, which can be tuned during the coating procedure. The generic and surfactant-free coating method reported here transfers the high affinity and specificity of a protein onto colloidal polystyrene microparticles.