Design and mechanistic study of a novel gold nanocluster-based drug delivery system†
Chemically-triggered drug delivery systems (DDSs) have been extensively studied as they do not require specialized equipment to deliver the drug and can deeply penetrate human tissue. However, their syntheses are complicated and they tend to be cytotoxic, which restricts their clinical utility. In this work, the self-regulated drug loading and release capabilities of peptide-protected gold nanoclusters (Pep-Au NCs) are investigated using vancomycin (Van) as the model drug. Gold nanoclusters (Au NCs) coated with a custom-designed pentapeptide are synthesized as drug delivery nanocarriers and loaded with Van – a spontaneous process reliant on the specific binding between Van and the custom-designed peptide. The Van-loaded Au NCs show comparable antimicrobial activity with Van on its own, and the number of Van released by the Pep-Au NCs is found to be proportional to the amount of bacteria present. The controlled nature of the Van release is very encouraging, and predominantly due to the stronger binding affinity of Van with bacteria than that with Au NCs. In addition, these fluorescent Au NCs could also be used to construct temperature sensors, which enable the in vitro and in vivo bioimaging.