Category Archives: Publications

Multistep nucleation of nanocrystals in aqueous solution

N. Duane Loh, Soumyo Sen, Michel Bosman, Shu Fen Tan, Jun Zhong, Christian A. Nijhuis, Petr Král, Paul Matsudaira & Utkur Mirsaidov

Nature Chemistry 9, 77–82 (2017) doi:10.1038/nchem.2618
Received 08 May 2016 Accepted 18 August 2016 Published online 03 October 2016

The nucleation and growth of solids from solutions impacts many natural processes and is fundamental to applications in materials engineering and medicine. For a crystalline solid, the nucleus is a nanoscale cluster of ordered atoms that forms through mechanisms still poorly understood. In particular, it is unclear whether a nucleus forms spontaneously from solution via a single- or multiple-step process. Here, using in situ electron microscopy, we show how gold and silver nanocrystals nucleate from supersaturated aqueous solutions in three distinct steps: spinodal decomposition into solute-rich and solute-poor liquid phases, nucleation of amorphous nanoclusters within the metal-rich liquid phase, followed by crystallization of these amorphous clusters. Our ab initio calculations on gold nucleation suggest that these steps might be associated with strong gold–gold atom coupling and water-mediated metastable gold complexes. The understanding of intermediate steps in nuclei formation has important implications for the formation and growth of both crystalline and amorphous materials.

Read online: Nature Chemistry.

Interactions and Attachment Pathways between Functionalized Gold Nanorods

Shu Fen Tan, Utkarsh Anand, and Utkur Mirsaidov

ACS Nano 2017 Jan 31. Epub 2017 Jan 31. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.6b07398

Nanoparticle (NP) self-assembly has been recognized as an important technological process for forming ordered nanostructures. However, the detailed dynamics of the assembly processes remain poorly understood. Using in situ liquid cell transmission electron microscopy, we describe the assembly modes of gold (Au) nanorods (NRs) in solution mediated by hydrogen bonding between NR-bound cysteamine linker molecules. Our observations reveal that by tuning the linker concentration, two different NR assembly modes can be achieved. These assembly modes proceed via the (1) end-to-end and (2) side-to-side attachment of NRs at low and high linker concentrations in solution, respectively. In addition, our time-resolved observations reveal that the side-to-side NR assemblies can occur through two different pathways: (i) prealigned attachment, where two Au NRs prealign to be parallel prior to assembly, and (ii) postattachment alignment, where two Au NRs first undergo end-to-end attachment and pivot around the attachment point to form the side-to-side assembly. We attributed the observed assembly modes to the distribution of linkers on the NR surfaces and the electrostatic interactions between the NRs. The intermediate steps in the assembly reported here reveal how the shape and surface functionalities of NPs drive their self-assembly, which is important for the rational design of hierarchical nanostructures.

Read online: ACS Nano.

The Secreted Signaling Protein Wnt3 Is Associated with Membrane Domains In Vivo: A SPIM-FCS Study

by Ng XW, Teh C, Korzh V, Wohland T

Biophys J. 2016 Jul 26;111(2):418-29. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2016.06.021

Wnt3 is a morphogen that activates the Wnt signaling pathway and regulates a multitude of biological processes ranging from cell proliferation and cell fate specification to differentiation over embryonic induction to neural patterning. Recent studies have shown that the palmitoylation of Wnt3 by Porcupine, a membrane-bound O-acyltransferase, plays a significant role in the intracellular membrane trafficking of Wnt3 and subsequently, its secretion in live zebrafish embryos, where chemical inhibition of Porcupine reduced the membrane-bound and secreted fractions of Wnt3 and eventually led to defective brain development. However, the membrane distribution of Wnt3 in cells remains not fully understood. Here, we determine the membrane organization of functionally active Wnt3-EGFP in cerebellar cells of live transgenic zebrafish embryos and the role of palmitoylation in its organization using single plane illumination microscopy-fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (SPIM-FCS), a multiplexed modality of FCS, which generates maps of molecular dynamics, concentration, and interaction of biomolecules. The FCS diffusion law was applied to SPIM-FCS data to study the subresolution membrane organization of Wnt3. We find that at the plasma membrane in vivo, Wnt3 is associated with cholesterol-dependent domains. This association reduces with increasing concentrations of Porcupine inhibitor (C59), confirming the importance of palmitoylation of Wnt3 for its association with cholesterol-dependent domains. Reduction of membrane cholesterol also results in a decrease of Wnt3 association with cholesterol-dependent domains in live zebrafish. This demonstrates for the first time, to our knowledge, in live vertebrate embryos that Wnt3 is associated with cholesterol-dependent domains.

Read online: Biophys J