Protein-templated gold nanoclusters: size dependent inversion of fluorescence emission in the presence of molecular oxygen.

PMID 22915187


Gold nanoclusters are promising candidates as biological markers without having toxic effects like fluorescent quantum dots. Herein, bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein stabilized gold nanoclusters of two different sizes emitting at 410 and 645 nm have been synthesized. These nanoclusters have been shown to interact with molecular oxygen differentially. Spectroscopic and chemical evidences show that dioxygen molecule gets adsorbed at two different orientations on the nanoclusters. The orientation motifs have been hypothesized to be superoxo and peroxo types on the smaller and the larger gold nanoclusters, respectively. Due to the difference in attachments, the oxygen molecule shows opposite changes in fluorescence intensity for the nanoclusters. The fluorescence intensity of the blue emitting nanocluster shows a profuse enhancement whereas the red emitting species shows quenching of emission. Superoxo type adsorption of the oxygen molecule on the blue emitting gold nanoclusters induce formation of singlet oxygen that in turn enhances the fluorescence intensity of the species. This could be verified by oxidation of diaminobenzidine (DAB) by singlet oxygen. Enhancement in fluorescence intensity of the blue emitting gold nanoclusters with an increase in concentration of molecular oxygen may enable them to be good candidates in bioimaging and detection.