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Insulin-Coated Gold Nanoparticles: A Plasmonic Device for Studying Metal–Protein Interactions

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Abstract

Insulin-capped gold nanoparticles (Au@insulin NPs) are highly sensitive towards pH and heavy metals, due to the protein coating. Au@insulin NPs aggregate and disaggregate reversibly with pH and in the presence of various heavy metal ions, which can be monitored through reversible changes in their optical properties. The sensitivity of the NPs towards different metal ions is dissimilar and depends on the coordinative properties of each specific metal ion, its valence number, concentration, and reaction time (kinetics), representing a simple tool for studying fundamental metal–protein interactions. Moreover, Au@insulin NPs are biocompatible and highly stable at high ionic strengths, due to their robust protein coating.

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