PEGylated Nb2O5 surfaces were obtained by the adsorption of poly(l-lysine)-g-poly(ethylene glycol) (PLL-g-PEG) copolymers, allowing control of the PEG surface density, as well as the surface charge. PEG (MW 2 kDa) surface densities between 0 and 0.5 nm-2 were obtained by changing the PEG to lysine-mer ratio in the PLL-g-PEG polymer, resulting in net positive, negative and neutral surfaces. Colloid probe atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to characterize the interfacial forces associated with the different surfaces. The AFM force analysis revealed interplay between electrical double layer and steric interactions, thus providing information on the surface charge and on the PEG layer thickness as a function of copolymer architecture. Adsorption of the model proteins lysozyme, α-lactalbumin, and myoglobin onto the various PEGylated surfaces was performed to investigate the effect of protein charge. In addition, adsorption experiments were performed over a range of ionic strengths, to study the role of electrostatic forces between surface charges and proteins acting through the PEG layer. The adsorbed mass of protein, measured by optical waveguide lightmode spectroscopy (OWLS), was shown to depend on a combination of surface charge, protein charge, PEG thickness, and grafting density. At high grafting density and high ionic strength, the steric barrier properties of PEG determine the net interfacial force. At low ionic strength, however, the electrical double layer thickness exceeds the thickness of the PEG layer, and surface charges ?shining through? the PEG layer contribute to protein interactions with PLL-g-PEG coated surfaces. The combination of AFM surface force measurements and protein adsorption experiments provides insights into the interfacial forces associated with various PEGylated surfaces and the mechanisms of protein resistance.
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