Nano Research

Article Title

Nanoscale image of the drug/metal mono-layer interaction: Tapping AFM-IR investigations


metal nanoparticle mono-layer, drug’s adsorption, infrared nanospectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, erlotinib


The application of metal nanoparticles as an efficient drug delivery system is one of the directions of cancer therapy development. However, this strategy requires precise information about how the drug interacts with the applied nanocarrier. In this study, atomic force microscopy combined with infrared spectroscopy (AFM-IR) was used for the first time to investigate the erlotinib adsorption structure on two different types of 15 nm metal nanoparticle mono-layers, namely, silver nanoparticle (AgNP) and gold nanoparticle (AuNP) mono-layers. Because the metal nanoparticles are loosely bound samples, only the tapping AFM-IR mode is suitable for the collection of IR maps and spectra for such a system. The obtained results indicated the relevance of the AFM-IR technique for characterizing drug interactions with a metal mono-layer surface. The investigated drug interacts with the AgNPs mainly through phenyl rings and methoxy moieties, while quinazoline, amino, and ethoxy moieties appear to be farther from the surface. For the AuNPs, the interaction occurs through both the phenyl ring and the quinazoline moiety. Additionally, the aliphatic groups of erlotinib directly participate in this interaction. The novelty of the present work is also related to the use of the tapping AFM-IR mode to study metal NP mono-layers with a drug adsorbed on them. The collected IR maps for the most enhanced erlotinib bands show specific areas with very high signal intensity. The connection between these areas and the “hot spots” typical for the surface plasmon resonance phenomenon of metals is considered.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press