Structural Characterization of Biofunctionalized Gold Nanoparticles by Ultrahigh-Resolution Mass Spectrometry

Simone Nicolardi, Yuri E.M. Van Der Burgt, Jeroen D.C. Codée, Manfred Wuhrer, Cornelis H. Hokke, Fabrizio Chiodo

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Biofunctionalized gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) enable innovative translational research and development in biomedicine. Biomolecules such as peptides, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates can be assembled onto AuNPs to yield nanomaterials with unique properties for applications in imaging, photothermal therapy, vaccination strategies, and drug delivery. The characterization of functionalized AuNPs still remains an analytical challenge that normally requires the combination of multiple techniques. Laser desorption/ionization (LDI) and matrix-assisted LDI (MALDI) have been applied successfully in combination with time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) for the analysis of the surface chemistry of AuNPs functionalized with synthetic ligands, however only for ligands with a molecular mass limited to 1000 Da. TOF-MS-based approaches in addition exhibit limited performance in terms of mass resolution and MS/MS possibilities. To overcome these limitations, we designed an approach for the analysis of AuNPs based on ultrahigh resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) MS and a combination of LDI and MALDI. To illustrate the performance of the method, we present a comprehensive characterization of the surface chemistry of AuNPs conjugated via a thiol-ending linker to either the ovalbumin peptide (OVA 323-339), the Lewis X antigen (Galβ1-4[Fucα1-3]GlcNAcβ1) trisaccharide, the tetramannoside Manα1-2Manα1-2Manα1-3Manα1, or a mixture of both carbohydrates. Collision-induced dissociation (CID) was used to characterize the structure of pseudomolecular ions generated by LDI/MALDI in-depth. These included [M + H]+ and [M + Na]+, and importantly also [M + Au]+ and [M + 2Au-H]+ ions. This first observation of gold-containing pseudomolecular ions provides direct evidence for the Au-conjugation of ligands. In addition, we show the applicability of the method to monitor proteolytic cleavage of peptides that are conjugated to the AuNP surface. The presented LDI/MALDI-FTICR-MS and MS/MS approach will be applicable to the characterization of a wide range of functionalized AuNPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8257-8264
Number of pages8
JournalACS nano
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • biofunctionalized nanomaterial
  • gold nanoparticles
  • mass spectrometry
  • surface chemistry
  • surface functionalization

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