The effect of salts in aqueous media on the formation of the BSA corona on SiO 2 nanoparticles

Brittany E. Givens, Elizabeth Wilson, Jennifer Fiegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Protein-nanoparticle interactions are garnering attention due to their potential impacts on human health and environmental contamination. The colloidal properties of nanoparticles (NPs) in aqueous media may differ in the presence of natural materials such as salts and proteins. In this study, the interactions between bovine serum albumin (BSA) and fumed hydrophilic silicon dioxide (SiO 2 ) NPs were studied in aqueous solutions under variable pH or ion composition. Investigation of hydrodynamic diameter and zeta potential changes to nanoparticles upon addition of BSA, the adsorption of BSA to the SiO 2 NP surface, and the interaction energy between particles revealed that buffered solutions promote protein adsorption onto NPs and particle agglomeration. The effects of ionic salt solutions were dependent on the ion charge, with negatively charged ions stabilizing the system and positively charged ions promoting protein-nanoparticle interactions. These data highlight that physiologically relevant salts affect protein corona formation on non-toxic, amorphous SiO 2 NPs and spur the need for well-defined characterization conditions when determining potential toxicity of NPs upon human or animal exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-381
Number of pages8
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation ( CHE-1062575 ), an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority PhD Scholarship through the University of Iowa Center for Exemplary Mentoring (BEG) , and the University of Iowa Graduate College Dean’s Research Fellowship program (BEG) . The authors thank Prof. Vicki H. Grassian, University of California San Diego, for helpful discussion about this project. The authors extend gratitude towards Professors Sarah C. Larsen and Eric Nuxoll for providing equipment used to complete these studies. We also thank Dr. Larissa Stebounova for help in DLVO calculations. Transmission electron microscopy was carried out in the Central Microscopy Facility at the University of Iowa.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Bovine serum albumin
  • DLVO
  • Ionic
  • Nanoparticle
  • Protein adsorption
  • Silica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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