Partial wrapping and spontaneous endocytosis of spherical nanoparticles by tensionless lipid membranes


Computer simulations of an implicit-solvent particle-based model are performed to investigate the interactions between small spherical nanoparticles and tensionless lipid bilayers. We found that nanoparticles are either unbound, wrapped by the bilayer, or endocytosed. The degree of wrapping increases with increasing the adhesion strength. The transition adhesion strength between the unbound and partially wrapped states decreases as the nanoparticle diameter is increased. We also observed that the transition adhesion strength between the wrapped states and endocytosis state decreases with increasing the nanoparticle diameter. The partial wrapping of the nanoparticles by the tensionless bilayer is explained by an elastic theory which accounts for the fact that the interaction between the nanoparticle and the bilayer extends beyond the contact region. The theory predicts that for small nanoparticles, the wrapping angle increases continuously with increasing the adhesion strength. However, for relatively large nanoparticles, the wrapping angle exhibits a discontinuity between weakly and strongly wrapped states. The size of the gap in the wrapping angle between the weakly wrapped and strongly wrapped states increases with decreasing the range of nanoparticle-bilayer interaction.

Publication Title

Journal of Chemical Physics