Peptide-biphenyl hybrid-capped AuNPs: stability and biocompatibility under cell culture conditions

Nanoscale Res Lett. 2013 Jul 6;8(1):315. doi: 10.1186/1556-276X-8-315.


In this study, we explored the biocompatibility of Au nanoparticles (NPs) capped with peptide-biphenyl hybrid (PBH) ligands containing glycine (Gly), cysteine (Cys), tyrosine (Tyr), tryptophan (Trp) and methionine (Met) amino acids in the human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line Hep G2. Five AuNPs, Au[(Gly-Tyr-Met)2B], Au[(Gly-Trp-Met)2B], Au[(Met)2B], Au[(Gly-Tyr-TrCys)2B] and Au[(TrCys)2B], were synthesised. Physico-chemical and cytotoxic properties were thoroughly studied. Transmission electron micrographs showed isolated near-spherical nanoparticles with diameters of 1.5, 1.6, 2.3, 1.8 and 2.3 nm, respectively. Dynamic light scattering evidenced the high stability of suspensions in Milli-Q water and culture medium, particularly when supplemented with serum, showing in all cases a tendency to form agglomerates with diameters approximately 200 nm. In the cytotoxicity studies, interference caused by AuNPs with some typical cytotoxicity assays was demonstrated; thus, only data obtained from the resazurin based assay were used. After 48-h incubation, only concentrations ≥50 μg/ml exhibited cytotoxicity. Such doses were also responsible for an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS). Some differences were observed among the studied NPs. Of particular importance is the AuNPs capped with the PBH ligand (Gly-Tyr-TrCys)2B showing remarkable stability in culture medium, even in the absence of serum. Moreover, these AuNPs have unique biological effects on Hep G2 cells while showing low toxicity. The production of ROS along with supporting optical microscopy images suggests cellular interaction/uptake of these particular AuNPs. Future research efforts should further test this hypothesis, as such interaction/uptake is highly relevant in drug delivery systems.