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Single Molecule Force Spectroscopy Reveals the pH-Dependent Mechanical Strength of the Alkynyl-Gold Bond

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Alkynyl groups are widely used as the gold-binding motifs for many applications, including the stabilization of gold nanoparticles, surface protection and surface chemical conjugation. However, at the fundamental level, the strength and binding mechanism of the alkynyl-gold bonds were yet to be revealed. Here, we use atomic force microscopy (AFM) based single molecule force spectroscopy to directly quantify the mechanical strength of the alkynyl-gold bond one bond at a time. We find that alkynyl-gold bonds are relatively strong with rupture forces in a broad range from 200 pN to 400 pN, which are stronger than many coordination bonds studied so far but weaker than a thiol-gold bond under similar experimental conditions. More interestingly, we find that the dissociation forces of alkynyl-gold bonds depend on the pH of the solution, suggesting a heterolytic rupture mechanism. The average rupture forces decrease from ∼270 pN at pH 7.4 to ∼100 pN at pH 3.4. Moreover, we find that the solvent conditions can also significantly affect the dissociation of alkynyl-gold bonds, indicating the existence of different binding modes and different dissociation pathways. Together, our results provide direct quantification of the mechanical strength of alkynyl-gold bonds and reveal the complex bond dissociation mechanism. This study may shed new light on the modulation of the stabilities of alkynyl-gold bonds at the bulk level for various biomedical and nanotechnological applications.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2018

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  • Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology (JBN) is a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary journal providing broad coverage in all research areas focused on the applications of nanotechnology in medicine, drug delivery systems, infectious disease, biomedical sciences, biotechnology, and all other related fields of life sciences.
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