Journal for Biophysical Chemistry

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Open Access

Iron-based ferritin nanocore as a contrast agent a)


Received: 17 May 2010

Accepted: 14 December 2010


Self-assembling protein cages have been exploited as templates for nanoparticle synthesis. The ferritin molecule, a protein cage present in most living systems, stores excess soluble ferrous iron in the form of an insoluble ferric complex within its cavity. Magnetic nanocores formed by loading excess iron within an engineered ferritin from Archaeoglobus fulgidus (AfFtn-AA) were studied as a potential magnetic resonance (MR) imaging contrast agent. The self-assembly characteristics of the AfFtn-AA were investigated using dynamic light scattering technique and size exclusion chromatography. Homogeneous size distribution of the assembled nanoparticles was observed using transmission electron microscopy. The magnetic properties of iron-loaded AfFtn-AA were studied using vibrating sample magnetometry. Images obtained from a 3.0 T whole-body MRI scanner showed significant brightening of T1 images and signal loss of T2 images with increased concentrations of iron-loaded AfFtn-AA. The analysis of the MR image intensities showed extremely high R2 values (5300 mM−1 s−1) for the iron-loaded AfFtn-AA confirming its potential as a T2 contrast agent.