Are Bidentate Ligands Really Better than Monodentate Ligands For Nanoparticles?

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Biocompatible nanoparticles, Ligand exchange, Nonspecific binding, Protein labeling, Quantum dots, Surface chemistry


Coordinating ligands are widely used to vary the solubility and reactivity of nanoparticles for subsequent bioconjugation. Although long-term colloidal stability is enhanced by using bidentate coordinating ligands over monodentate ones, other properties such as nonspecific adsorption of target molecules and ligand exchange have not been quantified. In this study, we modified a near-infrared dye to serve as a highly sensitive reporter for nonspecific binding of thiolated target molecules to nanoparticle surfaces that are functionalized with monodentate or bidentate coordinated ligands. Specifically, we analyzed nonspecific binding mechanisms to quantum dots (QDs) by fitting the adsorption profiles to the Hill equation and the parameters are used to provide a microscopic picture of how ligand density and lability control nonspecific adsorption. Surprisingly, bidentate ligands are worse at inhibiting adsorption to QD surfaces at low target/QD ratios, although they become better as the ratio increases, but only if the nanoparticle surface area is large enough to overcome steric effects. This result highlights that a balance between ligand density and lability depends on the dentate nature of the ligands and controls how molecules in solution can coordinate to the nanoparticle surface. These results will have major implications for a range of applications in nanobiomedicine, bioconjugation, single molecule spectroscopy, self-assembly, and nano(photo)catalysis where both nonspecific and specific surface interactions play important roles. As an example, we tested the ability of monodentate and bidentate functionalized nanoparticles to resist nonspecific adsorption of IgG antibodies that contained free thiol groups at a 1:1 QD/IgG ratio and found that QDs with monodentate ligands did indeed result in lower nonspecific adsorption.


Principal Investigator: Colin Heyes

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the NSF (CHE-1255440), the NIH (R21 EB009802-01 and COBRE P30 GM103450), and the Arkansas Biosciences Institute for financial support. TEM instrumentation access is provided by the Arkansas Materials Characterization Facility (Funded in part by the NSF) and the Institute of Nanoscience and Engineering at the University of Arkansas.