Effects of surface wettability and contact time on protein adhesion to biomaterial surfaces

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Atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to directly measure the adhesion forces between three test proteins and low density polyethylene (LDPE) surfaces treated by glow discharge plasma to yield various levels of water wettability. The adhesion of proteins to the LDPE substrates showed a step dependence on the wettability of surfaces as measured by the water contact angle (θ). For LDPE surfaces with θ>∼60-65°, stronger adhesion forces were observed for bovine serum albumin, fibrinogen and human FXII than for the surfaces with θ<60°. Smaller adhesion forces were observed for FXII than for the other two proteins on all surfaces although trends were identical. Increasing the contact time from 0 to 50 s for each protein-surface combination increased the adhesion force regardless of surface wettability. Time varying adhesion data was fit to an exponential model and free energies of protein unfolding were calculated. This data, viewed in light of previously published studies, suggests a 2-step model of protein denaturation, an early stage on the order of seconds to minutes where the outer surface of the protein interacts with the substrate and a second stage involving movement of hydrophobic amino acids from the protein core to the protein/surface interface. Impact statement: The work described in this manuscript shows a stark transition between protein adherent and protein non-adherent materials in the range of water contact angles 60-65°, consistent with known changes in protein adsorption and activity. Time-dependent changes in adhesion force were used to calculate unfolding energies relating to protein-surface interactions. This analysis provides justification for a 2-step model of protein denaturation on surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3273-3283
Number of pages11
Issue number22
StatePublished - Aug 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


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