Effects of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nano-materials on lipid order in model membranes

Matthew J. Sydor, Donald S. Anderson, Harmen B.B. Steele, J. B.Alexander Ross, Andrij Holian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Engineered nano-materials (ENM) have been reported to affect lipid membrane permeability in cell models, but a mechanistic understanding of how these materials interact with biological membranes has not been described. To assess mechanisms of permeability, liposomes composed of DOPC, DOPS, or POPC, with or without cholesterol, were used as model membranes for measuring ENM-induced changes to lipid order to improve our understanding of ENM effects on membrane permeability. Liposomes were treated with either titanium dioxide (TiO2) or zinc oxide (ZnO) ENM, and changes to lipid order were measured by time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy of a lipophilic probe, Di-4-ANEPPDHQ. Both ENM increased lipid order in two lipid models differing in headgroup charge. TiO2 increased lipid order of POPC liposomes (neutral charge), while ZnO acted primarily on DOPS liposomes (negative charge). Addition of cholesterol to these models significantly increased lipid order while in some cases attenuated ENM-induced changes to lipid order. To assess the ability of ENM to induce membrane permeability, liposomes composed of the above lipids were assayed for membrane permeability by calcein leakage in response to ENM. Both ENM caused a dose-dependent increase in permeability in all liposome models tested, and the addition of cholesterol to the liposome models neither blocked nor reduced calcein leakage. Together, these experiments show that ENM increased permeability of small molecules (calcein) from model liposomes, and that the magnitude of the effect of ENM on lipid order depended on ENM surface charge, lipid head group charge and the presence of cholesterol in the membrane.

Original languageEnglish
Article number183313
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Anisotropy
  • Liposome
  • Model membrane
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide


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