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Polyelectrolyte (PE) wrapping of colloidal nanoparticles (NPs) is a standard method to control NP surface chemistry and charge. Because excess polyelectrolytes are usually employed in the surface modification process, it is critical to evaluate different purification strategies to obtain a clean final product and thus avoid ambiguities in the source of effects on biological systems. In this work, 4 nm diameter gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) were wrapped with 15 kDa poly(allylamine hydrochloride) (PAH), and three purification strategies were applied: (a) diafiltration or either (b) one round or (c) two rounds of centrifugation. The bacterial toxicity of each of these three PAH-AuNP samples was evaluated for the bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 and is quantitatively correlated with the amount of unbound PAH molecules in the AuNP suspensions, as judged by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance experiments and quantification using fluorescent assay. Dialysis experiments show that, for a 15 kDa polyelectrolyte, a 50 kDa dialysis membrane is not sufficient to remove all PAH polymers. Together, these data showcase the importance of choosing a proper postsynthesis purification method for polyelectrolyte-wrapped NPs and reveal that apparent toxicity results may be due to unintended free wrapping agents such as polyelectrolytes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
TEM work in this study was carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from NSF through the MRSEC program. NMR experiments were performed at the University of Illinois NMR Lab of the School of Chemical Sciences.
How much support was provided by MRSEC?
Reporting period for MRSEC
- Period 4
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article