Nano Research

, Volume 5, Issue 8, pp 531–542 | Cite as

Ultrasmall fluorescent silver nanoclusters: Protein adsorption and its effects on cellular responses

  • Li Shang
  • René M. Dörlich
  • Vanessa Trouillet
  • Michael Bruns
  • G. Ulrich NienhausEmail author
Research Article


Ultrasmall silver nanoclusters (AgNCs) are a novel type of fluorescent nanoprobes that have aroused a great deal of interest in recent years. In view of many promising applications in biological research, it is of great importance to explore their behavior in the complex biological environment. In this study, interactions of AgNCs with a model protein, human serum albumin (HSA), have been systematically investigated by using a variety of techniques including absorption spectroscopy, steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence, as well as circular dichroism spectroscopy. The results show that the physicochemical properties of both proteins and AgNCs undergo changes upon their interactions; however, it appears that the overall conformation of HSA remains essentially unaffected in the complex. Binding of HSA to AgNCs was assessed by measuring tryptophan fluorescence quenching of HSA by AgNCs. Furthermore, biological implications of protein adsorption were quantitatively explored by evaluating responses of HeLa cells to AgNC exposure through live-cell fluorescence microscopy and a cytotoxicity test, revealing that protein adsorption has a significant effect on the biological response to AgNC exposure.


Silver nanoclusters protein adsorption cytotoxicity cellular uptake fluorescent probes 


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Copyright information

© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Li Shang
    • 1
  • René M. Dörlich
    • 1
  • Vanessa Trouillet
    • 2
  • Michael Bruns
    • 2
  • G. Ulrich Nienhaus
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Applied Physics and Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN)Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)KarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Materials Research IIIKarlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)KarlsruheGermany
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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