With the rapid growth in the application of graphene oxide (GO) in diverse fields, the toxicity of GO toward bacterial and mammalian cells has recently attracted extensive research attention. While several mechanisms have been proposed for the cytotoxicity of GO, the attachment of GO to cell membranes is expected to be the key initial process that precedes these mechanisms. In this study, we investigate the propensity for GO to attach to and disrupt model cell membranes using supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) and supported vesicular layers (SVLs) that are composed of zwitterionic 1,2-dioleoylsn- glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC). The deposition kinetics of GO on SLBs were determined using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring and were observed to increase with increasing electrolyte (NaCl and CaCl2) concentrations, indicating that GO attachment to SLBs was controlled by electrostatic interactions. The GO deposition kinetics measured at elevated electrolyte concentrations were lower than mass-transfer-limited kinetics, likely due to the presence of hydration forces between GO and SLBs. Upon the attachment of GO to supported vesicles that were encapsulated with a fluorescent dye, dye leakage was detected, thus indicating that the lipid vesicles were disrupted. When the exposure of the SVL to the GO suspension was terminated, the leakage of dye decreased significantly, demonstrating that the pores on the lipid bilayers have a self-healing ability.

Langmuir 2015, 31, 12076-12086