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Keywords:

  • gold;
  • nanoparticles;
  • peptides;
  • self-assembly;
  • self-organization

Abstract

Self-organization in mixed self-assembled monolayers of small molecules provides a route towards nanoparticles with complex molecular structures. Inspired by structural biology, a strategy based on chemical cross-linking is introduced to probe proximity between functional peptides embedded in a mixed self-assembled monolayer at the surface of a nanoparticle. The physical basis of the proximity measurement is a transition from intramolecular to intermolecular cross-linking as the functional peptides get closer. Experimental investigations of a binary peptide self-assembled monolayer show that this transition happens at an extremely low molar ratio of the functional versus matrix peptide. Molecular dynamics simulations of the peptide self-assembled monolayer are used to calculate the volume explored by the reactive groups. Comparison of the experimental results with a probabilistic model demonstrates that the peptides are not randomly distributed at the surface of the nanoparticle, but rather self-organize into supramolecular domains.