Polycationic gold nanorods as multipurpose in vitro microtubule markers
Gold nanoparticles are intriguing because of their unique size- and shape-dependent chemical, electronic and optical properties. Gold nanorods (AuNRs) are particularly promising for various sensor applications due to their tip-enhanced plasmonic fields. For biomolecule attachment, AuNRs are often functionalized with proteins. However, by their intrinsic size such molecules block the most sensitive near-field region of the AuNRs. Here, we used short cationic thiols to functionalize AuNRs. We show that the functionalization layer is thin and that these polycationic AuNRs bind in vitro to negatively charged microtubules. Furthermore, we can plasmonically stimulate light emission from single AuNRs in the absence of any fluorophores and, therefore, use them as bleach- and blinkfree microtubule markers. We expect that polycationic AuNRs may be applicable to in vivo systems and other negatively charged molecules like DNA. In the long-term, microtubule-bound AuNRs can be used as ultrasensitive single-molecule sensors for molecular machines that interact with microtubules.
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