Protein-conjugated gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) have recently shown promising applications in medicine, owing to their inertness and biocompatibility. Herein, we studied the spectroscopy of 25 nm diameter AuNPs, coated with human serum albumin (HSA) as a model drug carrier. The morphology and coating of the AuNPs were examined using transmission electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering. Resonance energy transfer from the sole tryptophan of HSA (Trp214) to the AuNPs indicates a single layer of protein coverage. Using fluorescein (FL) to probe the warfarin drug-binding site in HSA revealed an increase in the HSA-FL binding by ∼4.5 times when HSA is anchored on the nanoparticle surface, indicating a rise in the loading capacity. Femtosecond transient absorption measurements of the surface plasmonic resonance band of the AuNPs show three ultrafast dynamics that are involved in the relaxation process. The three decay components were assigned to the electron-electron (∼400 fs), electron-phonon (∼2.0 ps) and phonon-phonon (200-250 ps) interactions. These dynamics were not changed upon coating the AuNPs with HSA which indicates the chemical and physical stability of the AuNPs upon bioconjugation. Chemical unfolding of the warfarin binding site with guanidine hydrochloride (GdnHCl) was studied by measuring the spectral shift in the Trp214 fluorescence and the appearance of the Tyr fluorescence. Unfolding was shown to start at [GdnHCl] ≥ 2.0 M and is complete at [GdnHCl] = 6.0 M. HSA anchored onto the nanoparticle surface shows more resistance to the unfolding effect which is attributed to the stability of the native form of HSA on the nanoparticle surface. On the other hand, upon complete unfolding, a larger red shift in the Trp214 fluorescence was observed for the HSA-AuNP complex. This observation indicates that, upon unfolding, the HSA molecule is still anchored on the AuNP surface in which subdomain IIA is facing the outer water molecules in the bulk solution as well as the hydration shell rather than the core of the nanoparticle. The current study is important for a better understanding of the physical and dynamical properties of protein-coated metal nanoparticles, which is expected to help in optimizing their properties for critical applications in nanomedicine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas