Dextran-encapsulated photoluminescent gold nanoclusters: Synthesis and application

Wei Ju Chiu, Wei Yu Chen, Hong Zheng Lai, Ching Yi Wu, Hsiang Lin Chiang, Yu-Chie Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Dextrans are widely used as additives in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics because of their hydrophilicity, biocompatibility, and low toxicity. These features allow the use of dextrans to modify the surface of nanoparticles to improve cell compatibility for biomedical applications. Additionally, dextran molecules covalently bound with fluorescent dyes are frequently used as tracers in animal studies. These facts show that dextrans are useful compounds for biomedicine-related applications and research. Our aim was to explore a facile way to generate dextran-derived nanoparticles with photoluminescent property for the use in fluorescence imaging of bacteria and cancer cells. Dextran-encapsulated gold nanoclusters (AuNCs@dextran) were generated through a one-pot reaction by stirring dextrans and aqueous tetrachloroauric acid overnight. The generated AuNCs exhibit bright and green photoluminescence under the illumination of an ultraviolet lamp (λmax = 365 nm), and high cell biocompatibility was found as well. Therefore, the generated AuNCs can be used as fluorescence tracers and nanoprobes. We explored the suitability of AuNCs@dextran as labeling agents for bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. After the bacteria were labeled by AuNCs@dextran, they became quite visible under a fluorescence microscope. Additionally, we demonstrated that nanocomposites composed of AuNCs@dextran and silica beads can be readily internalized by cancer cells. The nanocomposites can be readily detected in the cells through their photoluminescence, suggesting possible applications in drug delivery and fluorescence imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2478
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Bacteria
  • Cancer cells
  • Dextran
  • Gold nanoclusters
  • Imaging
  • Photoluminescence

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