DNA encapsulates silver clusters, and these hybrid nanomaterials form molecular sensors. We discuss a silver cluster-oligonucleotide sensor with four characteristics. First, a specific reporting cluster forms within a single-stranded DNA. This template uses the 5′ cluster domain CCCCAACTCCTT with different 3′ recognition sites for complementary oligonucleotides. The modular composite strand exclusively forms a cluster with λmax = 400 nm and with low emission. Conjugates were chromatographically purified, and their elemental analysis measured a cluster adduct with ∼11 silver atoms. Second, hybridization transforms the cluster. Size exclusion chromatography shows that the 3′ recognition sites of the single-stranded conjugates hybridize with their complements. This secondary structural change both shifts cluster absorption from 400 to 490 nm and develops emission at 550 nm. Third, cluster size remains intact. Like their violet predecessors, purified blue-green clusters have ∼11 silver atoms. Cluster integrity is further supported by extracting the complement from the blue-green conjugate and reversing the spectral changes. Fourth, the cluster transformation is an equilibrium. Complementary strands generate an isosbestic point and thus directly link single-stranded hosts for the violet cluster and their hybridized analogs for the blue-green cluster. This equilibrium shifts with temperature. A van't Hoff analysis shows that longer and more stable duplexes favor the blue-green cluster. However, hybridized cluster hosts are less stable than their native DNA counterparts, and stability further degrades when short complements expose nucleobases within S1-S2. Duplex instability suggests that unpaired nucleobases coordinate the violet cluster and favor the single-stranded sensor. A balance between innate hybridization and exogenous folding highlights a distinct feature of silver clusters for sensing: they are both chromophoric reporters and ligands that modulate analyte-sensor interactions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry