Protein adhesion and cell response on atmospheric pressure dielectric barrier discharge-modified polymer surfaces

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Gaseous plasma discharges are one of the most common means to modify the surface of a polymer without affecting its bulk properties. However, this normally requires the materials to be processed in vacuo to create the active species required to permanently modify the surface chemistry. The ability to invoke such changes under normal ambient conditions in a cost-effective manner has much to offer to enhance the response of medical implants in vivo. It is therefore important to accurately determine the nature and scale of the effects derived from this technology. This paper reports on the modification of poly(styrene) (PS) and poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) using atmospheric pressure plasma processing via exposure to a dielectric barrier discharge (DBD). The changes in surface chemistry and topography after DBD treatment were characterised using water contact angle, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and atomic force microscopy. A marked increase in the surface oxygen concentration was observed for both PMMA and PS. An increase in surface roughness was observed for PMMA, but not for PS. These changes were found to result in an increase in surface wettability for both polymers. Adsorption of albumin (Alb) onto these substrates was studied using XPS and quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D). The rate of adsorption of Alb onto pristine PMMA and PS was faster than that on the DBD-treated polymers. XPS indicated that a similar concentration of Alb occurred on both of the treated surfaces. Deconvolution of the C1s XPS spectra showed that Alb is adsorbed differently on pristine (hydrophobic) compared to DBD-treated (hydrophilic) surfaces, with more polar functional groups oriented towards the upper surface in the latter case. The QCM-D data corroborates this finding, in that a more viscoelastic layer of Alb was formed on the DBD-treated surfaces relative to that on the pristine surfaces. It was also found that Alb was more easily replaced by larger proteins from foetal bovine serum on the DBD-treated surfaces. The viability of human lens epithelial cells on both of the DBD-treated polymer surface was significantly (P <0.05) greater than on the respective pristine surfaces. In addition, cells that adhered to the treated polymers exhibited a polygonal morphology with well spread actin stress fibres compared with the contracted shape displayed on the pristine surfaces. The results presented here clearly indicate that DBD surface modification has the capability to influence key protein and cell responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2609-2620
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

Reference text: [1] Kasemo B. Biological surface science. Surf Sci 2002;500:656–77.
[2] Hammer DA, Tirrell M. Biological ahesion at interfaces. Annu Rev Mater Sci
[3] Wilson CJ, Clegg RE, Leavesley DI, Pearcy MJ. Mediation of biomaterial–cell
interactions by adsorbed proteins: a review. Tissue Eng 2005;11:1–18.
[4] Garcia AJ. Get a grip: integrins in cell–biomaterial interactions. Biomaterials
[5] Kato M, Mrksich M. Rewiring cell adhesion. J Am Chem Soc 2004;126:6504–5.
[6] Dimilla PA, Albelda SM, Quinn JA. Adsorption and elution of extracellular
matrix proteins on non-tissue culture polystyrene Petri dishes. J Colloid
Interface Sci 1992;153:212–25.
[7] Veiseh M, Turley EA, Bissell MJ. Top-down analysis of a dynamic environment:
extracellular matrix structure and function. In: Laurencin CT, Nair L,
editors. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2008. p. 33–52.
[8] Hubbell JA. Surface treatment of polymers for biocompatibility. Annu Rev
Mater Sci 1996;26:365–94.
[9] Nath N, Hyun J, Ma H, Chilkoti A. Surface engineering strategies for control of
protein and cell interactions. Surf Sci 2004;570:98–110.
[10] Stevens MM, George JH. Exploring and engineering the cell surface interface.
Science 2005;310:1135–8.
[11] Chu PK, Chen JY, Wang LP, Huang N. Plasma-surface modification of
biomaterials. Mater Sci Eng R 2002;36:143–206.
[12] Upadhyay DJ, Cui N, Anderson CA, Brown NMD. Surface recovery and
degradation of air dielectric barrier discharge processed poly(methyl
methacrylate) and poly(ether ether ketone) films. Polym Degrad Stab
[13] Liu C, Brown NMD, Meenan BJ. Statistical analysis of the effect of dielectric
barrier discharge (DBD) operating parameters on the surface processing of
poly(methylmethacrylate) film. Surf Sci 2005;575:273–86.
[14] Liu C, Brown NMD, Meenan BJ. Dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) processing of
PMMA surface: optimization of operational parameters. Surf Coat Technol
[15] Liu C, Meenan BJ. Effect of air plasma processing on the adsorption behaviour
of bovine serum albumin on spin-coated PMMA surfaces. J Bionic Eng
[16] Upadhyay DJ, Cui N, Anderson CA, Brown NMD. Surface oxygenation of
polypropylene using an air dielectric barrier discharge: the effect of different
electrode–platen combinations. Appl Surf Sci 2004;229:352–64.
[17] Dorai R, Kushner MJ. A model for plasma modification of polypropylene using
atmospheric pressure discharges. J Phys D Appl Phys 2003;36:666–85.
[18] Kogelschatz U, Eliasson B, Egli W. From ozone generators to flat television
screens: history and future potential of dielectric-barrier discharges. Pure Appl
Chem 1999;71:1819–28.
[19] Liu C, Cui N, Brown NMD, Meenan BJ. Effects of DBD plasma operating
parameters on the polymer surface modification. Surf Coat Technol
[20] Liu CZ, Wu JQ, Ren LQ, Tong J, Li JQ, Cui N, Brown NMD, Meenan BJ.
Comparative study on the effect of RF and DBD plasma treatment on PTFE
surface modification. Mater Chem Phys 2004;85:340–6.
[21] Borcia G, Brown NMD, Dixon D, McIlhagger R. The effect of an air-dielectric
barrier discharge on the surface properties and peel strength of medical
packaging materials. Surf and Coat Technol 2004;179:70–7.
[22] Okpalugo TIT, Papakonstantinou P, Murphy H, Mclaughlin J, Brown NMD.
Oxidative functionalization of carbon nanotubes in atmospheric pressure
filamentary dielectric barrier discharge (APDBD). Carbon 2005;43:2951–9.
[23] Cui N, Upadhyay DJ, Anderson CA, Brown NMD. Study of the surface
modification of a Nylon-6,6 film processed in an atmospheric pressure air
dielectric barrier discharge. Surf Coat Technol 2005;192:94–100.
[24] Upadhyay DJ, Cui NY, Meenan BJ, Brown NMD. The effect of dielectric barrier
discharge configuration on the surface modification of aromatic polymers. J
Phys D: Appl Phys 2005;38:922–9.
[25] Liu C, Brown NMD, Meenan BJ. Uniformity analysis of dielectric barrier
discharge (DBD) processed polyethylene terephthalate (PET) surface. Appl Surf
Sci 2006;252:2297–310.
[26] Chastain J, editor. Handbook of X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy. Minnesota:
Perkin-Elmer Corporation; 1992.
[27] Wertz CF, Santore MM. Adsorption and relaxation kinetics of albumin and
fibrinogen on hydrophobic surfaces: single-species and competitive
behaviour. Langmuir 1999;15:8884–94.
[28] Borcia G, Anderson CA, Brown NMD. The surface oxidation of selected
polymers using an atmospheric pressure air dielectric barrier discharge. Part
II. Appl Surf Sci 2004;225:186–97.
[29] Borcia G, Anderson CA, Brown NMD. Dielectric barrier discharge for surface
treatment: application to selected polymers in film and fibre form. Plasma
Sources Sci Technol 2003;12:335–44.
[30] Wenzel RN. Surface roughness and contact angle. J Phys Coll Chem
[31] Roach P, Farrar D, Perry CC. Interpretation of protein adsorption: surfaceinduced
conformational changes. J Am Chem Soc 2005;127:8168–73.
[32] Fraaije JGEM, Murris RM, Norde W, Lyklema J. Interfacial thermodynamics of
protein adsorption, ion co-adsorption and ion binding in solution: I.
Phenomenological linkage relations for ion exchange in lysozyme
chromatography and titration in solution. Biophys Chem 1991;40:303–15.
[33] Fraaije JGEM, Norde W, Lyklema J. Interfacial thermodynamics of protein
adsorption, ion co-adsorption and ion binding in solution: II. Model
interpretation of ion exchange in lysozyme chromatography. Biophys Chem
[34] Fraaije JGEM, Norde W, Lyklema J. Interfacial thermodynamics of protein
adsorption and ion co-adsorption. III. Electrochemistry of bovine serum
albumin adsorption on silver iodide. Biophys Chem 1991;41:263–76.
[35] Norde W. Adsorption of proteins at solid–liquid interfaces. Cell Mater
[36] Norde W. The behavior of proteins at interfaces, with special attention to the
role of the structure stability of the protein molecule. Clin Mater
[37] Norde W, Lyklema J. Protein adsorption and bacterial adhesion to solid
surfaces: A colloid-chemical approach. Colloids Surf 1989;38:1–13.
[38] Norde W, MacRitchie F, Nowicka G, Lyklema J. Protein adsorption at solid–
liquid interfaces: Reversibility and conformation aspects. J Colloid Interface Sci
[39] Norde W, Lyklema J. Why proteins prefer interfaces. J Biomater Sci Polym Ed
[40] Fabrizius-Homan DJ, Cooper SL. Competitive adsorption of vitronectin with
albumin, fibrinogen, and fibronectin on polymeric biomaterials. J Biomed
Mater Res 1991;25:953–71.
[41] Andrade JD, Hlady V. Vroman effects, techniques, and philosophies. J Biomater
Sci Polym Ed 1991;2:161–72.
12 R.A. D’Sa et al. / Acta Biomaterialia xxx (2010) xxx–xxx


  • Atmospheric pressure surface modification
  • Surface analysis
  • Protein adsorption
  • Cell viability


Dive into the research topics of 'Protein adhesion and cell response on atmospheric pressure dielectric barrier discharge-modified polymer surfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this