• competitive inhibition;
  • folic acid;
  • gold;
  • nanoparticles;
  • reporter-mediated uptake


We report here a facile method to obtain folic acid (FA)-protected gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) by heating an aqueous solution of HAuCl4/FA in which FA acts as both the reducing and stabilizing agent. The successful formation of FA-protected Au NPs is demonstrated by UV/Vis spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), selected-area electron diffraction (SAED), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The intracellular uptake of these nanoparticles is facilitated by HeLa cells overexpressing the folate reporter, which itself is significantly inhibited by free FA in a competitive assay as quantified by inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS). This simple one-step approach affords a new perspective for creating functional nanomaterials, and the resulting biocompatible, functional Au NPs may find some prospective applications in various biomedical fields.