Sensitization of an endogenous photosensitizer: electronic spectroscopy of riboflavin in the proximity of semiconductor, insulator, and metal nanoparticles

J Phys Chem A. 2015 May 7;119(18):4162-9. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpca.5b03021. Epub 2015 Apr 24.


Riboflavin (Rf) is a class of important vitamins (Vitamin B2) and a well-known antioxidant. Here we have synthesized nanohybrids of Rf with a number of inorganic nanoparticles (NPs); namely zinc oxide (ZnO), titanium oxide (TiO2), aluminum oxide (Al2O3) and gold NPs of similar sizes. While high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) confirms integrity and sizes of the NPs, intactness of the molecular structure of the drug Rf is revealed from absorption and steady-state emission spectra of the drug in the nanohybrid. Raman spectroscopy on the nanohybrids shows the nature of molecular complexation of the drug with the inorganic NPs. For the semiconductor and insulator NPs, the complexation is found to be noncovalent, however, a covalent attachment of the drug with the dangling bonds of metal atoms at the surface is observed. In order to investigate antioxidant activity of the nanohybrids, we have performed 2, 2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay of the nanohybrids in dark as well as under blue light irradiation. Whereas change of the antioxidant activity of the nanohybrids with respect to free riboflavin in the absence of light is observed to be insignificant, a drastic change in the activity in the case of TiO2 and ZnO in the presence of light is evident. No change in the case of Al2O3 and a significant decrease in the antioxidant activity for gold nanohybrids are also remarkable. Picosecond-resolved fluorescence studies on the nanohybrids reveal a molecular picture of the differential antioxidant activities. An ultrafast photoinduced electron transfer from Rf to ZnO and TiO2 are clearly evident from the corresponding fluorescence transients. We have compared the picosecond-resolved transients with that of Rf in the presence of a well-known electron acceptor benzoquinone (BQ) and found similar time scales. No temporal change in the fluorescence transient of riboflavin in Al2O3 nanohybrids compared to that of free Rf is observed indicating uneventful excited state relaxation of the nanohybrids. Nanosurface energy transfer (NSET) over Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) is found to be the prevailing de-excitation mechanism in the case of gold nanohybrids, because of the strong spectral overlap between Rf emission and surface plasmon absorption of the gold NPs. Different excited state mechanisms as revealed from our studies are expected to be useful for the design of NP-sensitized drugs, which are reported sparsely in the literature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum Oxide / chemistry*
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Particle Size
  • Photosensitizing Agents / chemistry*
  • Riboflavin / chemistry*
  • Semiconductors
  • Surface Properties
  • Titanium / chemistry*
  • Zinc Oxide / chemistry*


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • titanium dioxide
  • Gold
  • Titanium
  • Aluminum Oxide
  • Zinc Oxide
  • Riboflavin