Journal for Biophysical Chemistry

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Open Access

Study of nucleic acid—gold nanorod interactions and detecting nucleic acid hybridization using gold nanorod solutions in the presence of sodium citrate


Received: 23 August 2010

Accepted: 15 September 2010

Published: 14 December 2010


In this study, the authors report that sodium citrate can aggregate hexadecyl-trimethyl-ammonium ion+-coated gold nanorods (AuNRs), and nucleic acids of different charge and structure properties, i.e., single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), single-stranded peptide nucleic acid (PNA), and PNA-DNA complex, can bind to the AuNRs and therefore retard the sodium citrate-induced aggregation to different extents. The discovery that hybridized dsDNA (and the PNA-DNA complex) has a more pronounced protection effect than ssDNA (and PNA) allows the authors to develop a homogeneous phase AuNRs-based UV-visible (UV-vis) spectral assay for detecting specific sequences of oligonucleotides (20 mer) with a single-base-mismatch selectivity and a limit of detection of 5 nM. This assay involves no tedious bioconjugation and on-particle hybridization. The simple “set and test” format allows for a highly efficient hybridization in a homogeneous phase and a rapid display of the results in less than a minute. By measuring the degree of reduction in AuNR aggregation in the presence of different nucleic acid samples, one can assess how different nucleic acids interact with the AuNRs to complement the knowledge of spherical gold nanoparticles. Besides UV-vis characterization, transmission electron microscopy and zeta potential measurements were conduced to provide visual evidence of the particle aggregation and to support the discussion of the assay principle.