Research Article

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2018, 11(5): 2392–2404

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https://doi.org/10.1007/s12274-017-1860-4

Polycation-functionalized gold nanodots with tunable near-infrared fluorescence for simultaneous gene delivery and cell imaging

Yuanqing Sun1,4,§, Dandan Wang3,§, Yueqi Zhao1, Tianxin Zhao1, Hongchen Sun3, Xiangwei Li3, Chuanxi Wang2 (*), Bai Yang1, and Quan Lin1 (*)

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1 State Key Laboratory of Supramolecular Structure and Materials, College of Chemistry, Jilin University, Changchun 130012, China
2 Institute of New Energy Technology, Ningbo Institute of Industrial Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ningbo 315201, China
3 School of Stomatology, Jilin University, Changchun 130041, China
4 State Key Laboratory of Heavy Oil Processing, College of Science, China University of Petroleum, Beijing 102249, China
§ Yuanqing Sun and Dandan Wang contributed equally to this work.

Keywords: near-infrared fluorescent material, Au nanodot, tunable fluorescence, gene delivery, bioimaging
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ABSTRACT Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent metal nanodots may have significant advantages in biological detection and bioimaging. Herein, we introduce tunable near-infrared fluorescent gold nanodots (AuNDs) protected by branched polyethylenimine (PEI) modified by surface segmental attachment of sulfhydryl groups (PEI-SH), abbreviated as PEI-SH-AuNDs, for simultaneous gene delivery and cell imaging. The modified PEI endows the resultant PEI-SH-AuNDs with the following excellent advantages. Sulfhydryl groups of PEI-SH anchor to the surface of AuNDs, and such polycations with amine groups give PEI-SH-AuNDs remarkable stability. The cationic polymer PEI-SH with positive charges enables PEI-SH-AuNDs to perform gene delivery, and the gene transfection efficiency can reach 22.8%. Moreover, the fluorescence of PEI-SH-AuNDs is tunable from visible red light (wavelength 609 nm) to NIR light (wavelength 811 nm) via an increase in the size of AuNDs. PEI-SH-AuNDs yielded gene transfection efficiency similar to that of commercial PEI, but showed much lower cytotoxicity and much greater red-shift fluorescence. With excellent photoluminescent properties, such multifunctional fluorescent PEI-SH-AuNDs hold promise in applications to bioimaging and as ideal fluorescent probes for tracking gene transfection behavior.
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Polycation-functionalized gold nanodots with tunable near-infrared fluorescence for simultaneous gene delivery and cell imaging. Nano Res. 2018, 11(5): 2392–2404 https://doi.org/10.1007/s12274-017-1860-4

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