Plasma protein adsorption is regarded as a key factor in the in vivo organ distribution of intravenously administered drug carriers, and strongly depends on vector surface characteristics. The present study aimed to characterize the "protein corona" absorbed onto DC-Chol-DOPE cationic liposomes. This system was chosen because it is one of the most efficient and widely used non-viral formulations in vitro and a potential candidate for in vivo transfection of genetic material. After incubation of human plasma with cationic liposomes, nanoparticle-protein complex was separated from plasma by centrifugation. An integrated approach based on protein separation by one-dimensional 12% polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by the automated HPLC-Chip technology coupled to a high-resolution mass spectrometer was employed for protein corona characterization. Thirty gel lanes, approximately 2 mm, were cut, digested and analyzed by HPLC-MS/MS. Fifty-eight human plasma proteins adsorbed onto DC-Chol-DOPE cationic liposomes were identified. The knowledge of the interactions of proteins with liposomes can be exploited for future controlled design of colloidal drug carriers and possibly in the controlled creation of biocompatible surfaces of other devices that come into contact with proteins in body fluids. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.