Cellular association of nanoparticles (NPs) in biological fluids is affected by proteins adsorbed onto the NP surface, forming a "protein corona", thereby impacting cellular bioactivity. Here we investigate, based on an extensive gold NPs protein corona dataset, the relationships between NP-cell association and protein corona fingerprints (PCFs) as well as NP physicochemical properties. Accordingly, quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs) were developed based on both linear and non-linear support vector regression (SVR) models making use of a sequential forward floating selection of descriptors. The SVR model with only 6 serum proteins and zeta potential had higher accuracy (R2 = 0.895) relative to the linear model (R2 = 0.850) with 11 PCFs. Considering the initial pool of 148 descriptors, the APOB, A1AT, ANT3, and PLMN serum proteins along with NP zeta potential were identified as most significant to correlating NP-cell association. The present study suggests that QSARs exploration of NP-cell association data, considering the role of both NP protein corona and physicochemical properties, can support the planning and interpretation of toxicity studies and guide the design of NPs for biomedical applications. © The Royal Society of Chemistry.
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