N. Bonnet, D. O'Hagan, G. Hahner



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Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics

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Oligo( ethylene glycol) (OEG) containing self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) on gold are known for their protein resistant properties. The underlying molecular mechanisms and the contributions of the interactions involved, however, are still not completely understood. It is known that electrostatic, van der Waals, hydrophobic, and hydration forces all play a role in the interaction between proteins and surfaces, but it is difficult to study their influence separately and to quantify their contributions. In the present study we investigate five different OEG containing SAMs and the influence of the ionic strength and the electrostatic component on the amount of a negatively charged protein (fibrinogen) that adsorbs onto them. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was employed to record force-distance curves with hydrophobic probes depending on the ion concentration, and the amount of the protein that adsorbs relative to a hydrophobic surface was quantified using ellipsometry. The findings suggest that electrostatic forces can create a very low energy barrier thus only slightly decreasing the number of negatively charged proteins in solution with sufficient energy to approach the surface closely, and have a rather small influence on the amount that adsorbs. The films we investigated were not protein resistant. This supports other studies, reporting that a strong short-range repulsion as for example caused by hydration forces is required to make these films resistant to the non-specific adsorption of proteins.