1. Polytech
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New ACS publication

Published on April 19, 2023 Updated on April 19, 2023

Empirical Optimization of Peptide Sequence and Nanoparticle Colloidal Stability: The Impact of Surface Ligands and Implications for Colorimetric Sensing. Zhicheng Jin, Justin Yeung, Jiajing Zhou, Maurice Retout, Wonjun Yim, Pavla Fajtová, Bryan Gosselin, Ivan Jabin, Gilles Bruylants, Hedi Mattoussi, Anthony J. O’Donoghue, and Jesse V. Jokerst, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2023. First published: 14 April 2023



Surface ligands play a critical role in controlling and defining the properties of colloidal nanocrystals. These aspects have been exploited to design nanoparticle aggregation-based colorimetric sensors. Here, we coated 13-nm gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) with a large library of ligands (e.g., from labile monodentate monomers to multicoordinating macromolecules) and evaluated their aggregation propensity in the presence of three peptides containing charged, thiolate, or aromatic amino acids. Our results show that AuNPs coated with the polyphenols and sulfonated phosphine ligands were good choices for electrostatic-based aggregation. AuNPs capped with citrate and labile-binding polymers worked well for dithiol-bridging and π–π stacking-induced aggregation. In the example of electrostatic-based assays, we stress that good sensing performance requires aggregating peptides of low charge valence paired with charged NPs with weak stability and vice versa. We then present a modular peptide containing versatile aggregating residues to agglomerate a variety of ligated AuNPs for colorimetric detection of the coronavirus main protease. Enzymatic cleavage liberates the peptide segment, which in turn triggers NP agglomeration and thus rapid color changes in <10 min. The protease detection limit is 2.5 nM.