UCLA-led team builds precise, robust nanomolecules mimicking gold nanoparticles

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Graduate student Elaine Qian (Spokoyny group) led the interdisciplinary team whose research was recently featured in Nature Chemistry.

The paper titled “Atomically precise organomimetic cluster nanomolecules assembled via perfluoroaryl-thiol SNAr chemistry” was published online in Nature Chemistry on December 19, 2016.

Inspired by nature, chemists have been very interested in creating synthetic molecules capable of precise and programmable interactions with biomolecules. In their recent paper, the team has developed a new strategy for building covalent, atomically precise organomimetic cluster nanomolecules (OCNs) using icosahedral dodecaborate cluster scaffolds. These molecular entities are reminiscent of the thiol-capped gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) with regard to their facile assembly conditions and rigidity. Conceptually, this work can be thought of as “molecular alchemy”, which produces a metal-free molecule that imitates the properties of gold. Importantly, the OCNs built using this strategy feature precise tunability and superior structural stability in biological media due to full covalency. The team was able to show that the developed assembly conditions apply to a wide scope of substrates, including polymers, peptides, and sugars.

UCLA Spokoyny Lab

Furthermore, the team demonstrated that the sugar-coated OCN can exhibit dramatically enhanced affinity toward a protein through multivalent binding interactions.

This work was done in collaboration with Prof. Petr Král’s group from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Prof. Heather Maynard’s laboratory at UCLA, Prof. Arnold Rheingold from UCSD, and Prof. Tim Royappa from the University of West Florida. UCLA undergraduates Azin Saebi, Elamar Moully, Daniel Mosallaei, and Sylvia Chow were involved in this research. Alex Spokoyny is the corresponding author for this paper. To learn more of the Spokoyny group’s research, visit their website.