The controlled display of biomolecules on nanoparticles: a challenge suited to bioorthogonal chemistry

Bioconjug Chem. 2011 May 18;22(5):825-58. doi: 10.1021/bc200065z.


Interest in developing diverse nanoparticle (NP)-biological composite materials continues to grow almost unabated. This is motivated primarily by the desire to simultaneously exploit the properties of both NP and biological components in new hybrid devices or materials that can be applied in areas ranging from energy harvesting and nanoscale electronics to biomedical diagnostics. The utility and effectiveness of these composites will be predicated on the ability to assemble these structures with control over NP/biomolecule ratio, biomolecular orientation, biomolecular activity, and the separation distance within the NP-bioconjugate architecture. This degree of control will be especially critical in creating theranostic NP-bioconjugates that, as a single vector, are capable of multiple functions in vivo, including targeting, image contrast, biosensing, and drug delivery. In this review, a perspective is given on current and developing chemistries that can provide improved control in the preparation of NP-bioconjugates. The nanoscale properties intrinsic to several prominent NP materials are briefly described to highlight the motivation behind their use. NP materials of interest include quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, viral capsids, liposomes, and NPs composed of gold, lanthanides, silica, polymers, or magnetic materials. This review includes a critical discussion on the design considerations for NP-bioconjugates and the unique challenges associated with chemistry at the biological-nanoscale interface-the liabilities of traditional bioconjugation chemistries being particularly prominent therein. Select bioorthogonal chemistries that can address these challenges are reviewed in detail, and include chemoselective ligations (e.g., hydrazone and Staudinger ligation), cycloaddition reactions in click chemistry (e.g., azide-alkyne cyclyoaddition, tetrazine ligation), metal-affinity coordination (e.g., polyhistidine), enzyme driven modifications (e.g., HaloTag, biotin ligase), and other site-specific chemistries. The benefits and liabilities of particular chemistries are discussed by highlighting relevant NP-bioconjugation examples from the literature. Potential chemistries that have not yet been applied to NPs are also discussed, and an outlook on future developments in this field is given.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry*
  • Click Chemistry
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*


  • Biocompatible Materials