The distinct polarity of biomolecule surfaces plays a pivotal role in their biochemistry and functions as it is involved in numerous processes, such as folding, aggregation, or denaturation. Therefore, there is a need to image both hydrophilic and hydrophobic bio-interfaces with markers of distinct responses to hydrophobic and hydrophilic environments. In this work, we present a synthesis, characterization, and application of ultrasmall gold nanoclusters capped with a 12-crown-4 ligand. The nanoclusters present an amphiphilic character and can be successfully transferred between aqueous and organic solvents and have their physicochemical integrity retained. They can serve as probes for multimodal bioimaging with light (as they emit near-infrared luminescence) and electron microscopy (due to the high electron density of gold). In this work, we used protein superstructures, namely, amyloid spherulites, as a hydrophobic surface model and individual amyloid fibrils with a mixed hydrophobicity profile. Our nanoclusters spontaneously stained densely packed amyloid spherulites as observed under fluorescence microscopy, which is limited for hydrophilic markers. Moreover, our clusters revealed structural features of individual amyloid fibrils at a nanoscale as observed under a transmission electron microscope. We show the potential of crown ether-capped gold nanoclusters in multimodal structural characterization of bio-interfaces where the amphiphilic character of the supramolecular ligand is required.
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- Publication forum level 1
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)