Nanolayered chemical modification of silicon surfaces with ionizable surface groups for pH-triggered protein adsorption and release: application to microneedles

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Materials Chemistry B, Volume 1, Number 35, pp. 4466-4477 (2013)



DOI Name (links to online publication)



array patch system; drug-delivery; transdermal delivery; vaccine delivery; plasmid DNA; human skin; immunization; formulations; ovalbumin; insertion


The aim of this work was to develop a nanolayered pH sensitive coating method whereby proteins are coated at a suitable pH on the surface of chemically modified biomedical/bioanalytical microdevices and protein release is triggered by a pH-shift upon contact with the physiological environment. In this work such a coating was developed and was applied onto microneedles. First, the surface of microneedle arrays was modified with basic groups with a surface pK(a) below physiological pH. This modification was a multistep procedure: first the surface was hydroxylated in a piranha mixture, then 3-aminopropyl-triethoxysilane was coupled (yielding a "pH independent" surface with a positive charge over a broad pH range), next 4-pyridinecarboxaldehyde was coupled to the obtained surface amine groups and finally the imine bond was reduced by sodium cyanoborohydride. The obtained pH-sensitive pyridine-modified microneedles were coated with ovalbumin at surface pK(a) > pH > pI of the protein; thus the surface of the microneedles is positively charged and the protein is negatively charged. The coating efficiency of ovalbumin was 95% for the amine-modified (pH independent) and the pyridine-modified (pH sensitive) surfaces, whereas a non-modified surface had a coating efficiency of only 2%. After the protein-coated microneedle arrays were pierced into the skin, having a pH > surface pK(a) of the microneedle arrays, 70% of the protein was released within 1 minute, whereas the protein release from pH independent microneedle arrays was only 5%. In conclusion, we developed a procedure to efficiently coat microneedle arrays with proteins that are released upon piercing into human skin.