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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Encapsulation of gold nanoparticles into self-assembling protein nanoparticles

Yongkun Yang1 and Peter Burkhard12*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Materials Science, University of Connecticut, 97 N. Eagleville Road, Storrs, Mansfield, CT, 06269, USA

2 Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, 91 N. Eagleville Road, Storrs, Mansfield, CT, 06269, USA

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Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2012, 10:42  doi:10.1186/1477-3155-10-42

Published: 31 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Gold nanoparticles are useful tools for biological applications due to their attractive physical and chemical properties. Their applications can be further expanded when they are functionalized with biological molecules. The biological molecules not only provide the interfaces for interactions between nanoparticles and biological environment, but also contribute their biological functions to the nanoparticles. Therefore, we used self-assembling protein nanoparticles (SAPNs) to encapsulate gold nanoparticles. The protein nanoparticles are formed upon self-assembly of a protein chain that is composed of a pentameric coiled-coil domain at the N-terminus and trimeric coiled-coil domain at the C-terminus. The self-assembling protein nanoparticles form a central cavity of about 10 nm in size, which is ideal for the encapsulation of gold nanoparticles with similar sizes.

Results

We have used SAPNs to encapsulate several commercially available gold nanoparticles. The hydrodynamic size and the surface coating of gold nanoparticles are two important factors influencing successful encapsulation by the SAPNs. Gold nanoparticles with a hydrodynamic size of less than 15 nm can successfully be encapsulated. Gold nanoparticles with citrate coating appear to have stronger interactions with the proteins, which can interfere with the formation of regular protein nanoparticles. Upon encapsulation gold nanoparticles with polymer coating interfere less strongly with the ability of the SAPNs to assemble into nanoparticles. Although the central cavity of the SAPNs carries an overall charge, the electrostatic interaction appears to be less critical for the efficient encapsulation of gold nanoparticles into the protein nanoparticles.

Conclusions

The SAPNs can be used to encapsulate gold nanoparticles. The SAPNs can be further functionalized by engineering functional peptides or proteins to either their N- or C-termini. Therefore encapsulation of gold nanoparticles into SAPNs can provide a useful platform to generate a multifunctional biodevices.