A Robust and General Approach to Quantitatively Conjugate Enzymes to Plasmonic Nanoparticles

Bioconjugates of plasmonic nanoparticles have received considerable attention due to their potential biomedical applications. Succesfull bioconjugation requires control over the number and activity of the conjugated proteins, and the colloidal stability of the particles. In practice, this requires re-optimization of the conjugation protocol for each combination of protein and nanoparticle. Here we report a robust and general protocol that allows for the conjugation of a range of proteins to different types of nanoparticles using very short polyethylene-glycol(PEG) linkers, while simultaneously preserving protein activity and colloidal stability. The use of short linkers ensures that the protein is located close to the particle surface, where their refractive index sensitivity and near-field enhancement is maximal. We demonstrate that the use a Tween20 containing stabilizing buffer is critical in maintaining colloidal stability and protein function throughout the protocol. We obtain quantitative control over the average number of enzymes per particle by either varying the number of functional groups on the particle, or the enzyme concentration during incubation. This new route of preparing quantitative protein-nanoparticle bioconjugates paves the way to develop rational and quantitative strategies to functionalize nanoparticles for applications in sensing, medical diagnostics and drug delivery.