Peptide-Mediated Growth and Dispersion of Au Nanoparticles in Water via Sequence Engineering

Michelle A. Nguyen, Zak E. Hughes, Yang Liu, Yue Li, Mark T. Swihart, Marc R. Knecht, Tiffany R. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The use of peptides to nucleate, grow, and stabilize nanoparticles in aqueous media via noncovalent interactions offers new possibilities for creating functional, water-dispersed inorganic/organic hybrid materials, particularly for Au nanoparticles. Numerous previous studies have identified peptide sequences that both possess a strong binding affinity for Au surfaces and are capable of supporting nanoparticle growth in water. However, recent studies have shown that not all such peptide sequences can produce stable dispersions of these nanoparticles. Here, via integrated experiments and molecular modeling, we provide new insights into the many factors that influence Au nanoparticle growth and stabilization in aqueous media. We define colloidal stability by the absence of visible precipitation at least 24 h after synthesis. We use binding affinity measurements, nanoparticle synthesis, characterization and stabilization assays, and molecular modeling to investigate a set of sequences based on two known peptides with a strong affinity for Au. This set of biomolecules is designed to probe specific sequence and context effects using both point mutations and global reorganization of the peptides. Our data confirm, for a broader range of sequences, that Au nanoparticle/peptide binding affinity alone is not predictive of peptide-mediated colloidal stability. By comparing nanoparticle stabilization assay outcomes with molecular simulations, we establish a correlation between the colloidal stability of the Au nanoparticles and the degree of conformational diversity in the surface-adsorbed peptides. Our findings suggest future routes to engineer peptide sequences for biobased growth and dispersion of functional nanoparticles in aqueous media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11532-11542
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 31 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Energy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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