Resonance energy transfer between fluorescent BSA protected Au nanoclusters and organic fluorophores
Bovine serum albumin (BSA) protected nanoclusters (Au and Ag) represent a group of nanomaterials that holds great promise in biophysical applications due to their unique fluorescence properties and lack of toxicity. These metal nanoclusters have utility in a variety of disciplines including catalysis, biosensing, photonics, imaging and molecular electronics. However, they suffer from several disadvantages such as low fluorescence quantum efficiency (typically near 6%) and broad emission spectrum (540 nm to 800 nm). We describe an approach to enhance the apparent brightness of BSA Au clusters by linking them with a high extinction donor organic dye pacific blue (PB). In this conjugate PB acts as a donor to BSA Au clusters and enhances its brightness by resonance energy transfer (RET). We found that the emission of BSA Au clusters can be enhanced by a magnitude of two-fold by resonance energy transfer (RET) from the high extinction donor PB, and BSA Au clusters can act as an acceptor to nanosecond lifetime organic dyes. By pumping the BSA Au clusters using a high extinction donor, one can increase the effective brightness of less bright fluorophores like BSA Au clusters. Moreover, we prepared another conjugate of BSA Au clusters with the near infrared (NIR) dye Dylight 750 (Dy750), where BSA Au clusters act as a donor to Dy750. We observed that BSA Au clusters can function as a donor, showing 46% transfer efficiency to the NIR dye Dy750 with a long lifetime component in the acceptor decay through RET. Such RET-based probes can be used to prevent the problems of a broad emission spectrum associated with the BSA Au clusters. Moreover, transferring energy from BSA Au clusters to Dy750 will result in a RET probe with a narrow emission spectrum and long lifetime component which can be utilized in imaging applications.