Structure-activity relationship of carbon nitride dots in inhibiting Tau aggregation

Yiqun Zhou, Nabin Kandel, Mattia Bartoli, Leonardo F. Serafim, Ahmed E. ElMetwally, Sophia M. Falkenberg, Xavier E. Paredes, Christopher J. Nelson, Nathan Smith, Elisa Padovano, Wei Zhang, Keenan J. Mintz, Braulio C.L.B. Ferreira, Emel Kirbas Cilingir, Jiuyan Chen, Sujit K. Shah, Rajeev Prabhakar, Alberto Tagliaferro, Chunyu Wang, Roger M. Leblanc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to the numerous failed clinical trials of anti-amyloid drugs, microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT) now stands out as one of the most promising targets for AD therapy. In this study, we report for the first time the structure-dependent MAPT aggregation inhibition of carbon nitride dots (CNDs). CNDs have exhibited great promise as a potential treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD) by inhibiting the aggregation of MAPT. In order to elucidate its structure-activity relationship, CNDs were separated via column chromatography and five fractions with different structures were obtained that were characterized by multiple spectroscopy methods. The increase of surface hydrophilic functional groups is consistent with the increase of polarity from fraction 1 to 5. Particle sizes (1–2 nm) and zeta potentials (∼-20 mV) are similar among five fractions. With the increase of polarity from fraction 1 to 5, their MAPT aggregation inhibition capacity was weakened. This suggests hydrophobic interactions between CNDs and MAPT, validated via molecular dynamics simulations. With a zebrafish blood-brain barrier (BBB) model, CNDs were observed to cross the BBB through passive diffusion. CNDs were also found to inhibit the generation of multiple reactive oxygen species, which is an important contributor to AD pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Jun 30 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Carbon nitride dots
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Tau aggregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)


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