Nanoscale Horizons, 2020, 5 (11), 1476-1486

The biomolecule corona of lipid nanoparticles contains circulating cell-free DNA

Lois Gardner, Jessica Warrington, Jane Rogan, Dominic G. Rothwell, Ged Brady, Caroline Dive, Kostas Kostarelos*, Marilena Hadjidemetriou*

The spontaneous adsorption of biomolecules onto the surface of nanoparticles (NPs) in complex physiological biofluids has been widely investigated over the last decade. Characterisation of the protein composition of the ‘biomolecule corona’ has dominated research efforts, whereas other classes of biomolecules, such as nucleic acids, have received no interest. Scarce, speculative statements exist in the literature about the presence of nucleic acids in the biomolecule corona, with no previous studies attempting to describe the contribution of genomic content to the blood-derived NP corona. Herein, we provide the first experimental evidence of the interaction of circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) with lipid-based NPs upon their incubation with human plasma samples, obtained from healthy volunteers and ovarian carcinoma patients. Our results also demonstrate an increased amount of detectable cfDNA in patients with cancer. Proteomic analysis of the same biomolecule coronas revealed the presence of histone proteins, suggesting an indirect, nucleosome-mediated NP–cfDNA interaction. The finding of cfDNA as part of the NP corona, offers a previously unreported new scope regarding the chemical composition of the ‘biomolecule corona’ and opens up new possibilities for the potential exploitation of the biomolecule corona for the enrichment and analysis of blood-circulating nucleic acids.