Nano Research

Article Title

Design of dual metal ions/dual amino acids integrated photoluminescent logic gate by high-molecular weight protein-localized Au nanoclusters


gold nanoclusters, proteins, logic gate, metal ions, amino acids


ABSTRACT Proteins are excellent templates and stabilizers for Au nanoclusters (NCs) because of their abundant thiol groups and unique internal environments. However, high-molecular weight (MW) proteins with special quaternary structures are rarely reported as such templates. Considering that proteins may afford different spatial configurations as templates for Au NCs, we focused on alkaline phosphatase, catalase, and fibrinogen (MW range from 150 to 340 kDa) as direct templates for synthesizing Au NCs. We demonstrated that both Cu2+ and Hg2+ could induce photoluminescence (PL) quenching of these Au NCs, while their binding mechanisms were different. Therefore, significant PL recovery by amino acids, e.g., histidine and cysteine, was observed for Cu2+-treated Au NCs, but not Hg2+-treated Au NCs, allowing for selective detection of Hg2+ by using histidine as a masking agent. The detection ranges were 0.06–2.0 μM for Hg2+ and 0.04–5.0 μM for Cu2+, with low limits of detection of 0.02 and 0.01 μM, respectively. The PL change showed opposite tendency for histidine and cysteine at higher concentrations, resulting in different PL outputs. Using dual metal ion and dual amino acid combinations, an integrated PL logic gate was fabricated. This work improves the understanding of the PL mechanisms of complicated protein-localized Au NCs.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press