Nanoparticles Communicate

Nanoparticles Communicate

Author: Jonathan Faiz

Systems in which the subunits communicate by exchanging chemical information have potential applications in sensing, delivery, and functional biomimetic chemistry. This so-called “chemical communication” occurs in nature, but is not well-explored in man-made systems.

Ramón Martínez-Máñez, Polytechnical University of Valencia, Spain, Knut Rurack, Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung, Berlin, Germany, and colleagues set out to construct a synthetic system in which molecular components communicate with each other. The researchers used gated mesoporous hybrid nanoparticles that are filled with a cargo and whose pores are stoppered (or “gated”) with capping molecules that are attached to the nanoparticle surface. An external stimulus results in the first nanoparticle releasing its cargo, which also acts as the stimulus to open a second nanoparticle, and the cargo released from the second nanoparticle opens a third nanoparticle, thus resulting in communication between the different nanoparticles.

The team synthesized solids

  • S1 (capped with Glucidex, a saccharide derivative),
  • S2 (capped with polyethylene glycol chains),
  • and S3 (capped with a lipid bilayer made from 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC),

and messengers

  • M1 (tris(2-carboxyethyl)phosphine, TCEP),
  • M2 (dodecyltrimethylammonium bromide, DTAB),
  • and M3 (safranin O dye).

When the enzyme pancreatin is added to an aqueous suspension containing the gated nanoparticles, M1 is released and triggers the opening of S2, which results in the release of M2, which in turn opens S3 to release M3. Control experiments were carried out to confirm that a cascade process takes place, and only occurs in the presence of all the components. The authors anticipate that their design principle can also be used for larger systems.


 

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