Hybrid assemblies of fluorescent nanocrystals and membrane proteins in liposomes

Vincenzo De Leo, Lucia Catucci, Andrea Falqui, Roberto Marotta, Marinella Striccoli, Angela Agostiano, Roberto Comparelli*, Francesco Milano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Because of the growing potential of nanoparticles in biological and medical applications, tuning and directing their properties toward a high compatibility with the aqueous biological milieu is of remarkable relevance. Moreover, the capability to combine nanocrystals (NCs) with biomolecules, such as proteins, offers great opportunities to design hybrid systems for both nanobiotechnology and biomedical technology. Here we report on the application of the micelle-to-vesicle transition (MVT) method for incorporation of hydrophobic, red-emitting CdSe@ZnS NCs into the bilayer of liposomes. This method enabled the construction of a novel hybrid proteo-NC-liposome containing, as model membrane protein, the photosynthetic reaction center (RC) of Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Electron microscopy confirmed the insertion of NCs within the lipid bilayer without significantly altering the structure of the unilamellar vesicles. The resulting aqueous NC-liposome suspensions showed low turbidity and kept unaltered the wavelengths of absorbance and emission peaks of the native NCs. A relative NC fluorescence quantum yield up to 8% was preserved after their incorporation in liposomes. Interestingly, in proteo-NC-liposomes, RC is not denatured by Cd-based NCs, retaining its structural and functional integrity as shown by absorption spectra and flash-induced charge recombination kinetics. The outlined strategy can be extended in principle to any suitably sized hydrophobic NC with similar surface chemistry and to any integral protein complex. Furthermore, the proposed approach could be used in nanomedicine for the realization of theranostic systems and provides new, interesting perspectives for understanding the interactions between integral membrane proteins and nanoparticles, i.e., in nanotoxicology studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1599-1608
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 18 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • General Materials Science
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Electrochemistry


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