Hybrid Nanorods Glow Like Jellyfish

What is the scientific achievement?

Jellyfish get their beautiful, 'greenish-blue glow' from chemically-activated blue luminescence, which is converted to green through a process known as bioluminescence resonant energy transfer (BRET).

Inspired by this natural process, CFN users from Syracuse designed and assembled enzyme/nanorod hybrid nanomaterials to perform efficient BRET upon chemical stimulation. Chemically stimulating the enzymes results in light emission from the nanorod, thus converting chemical energy to light at the nanoscale.

Why does this achievement matter?

This research demonstrates control of a biological function (bioluminescence resonant energy transfer efficiency) through design of a biotic-abiotic nanomaterial.

What are the details?

Jellyfish glow and luciferase enzyme enlarge

(Top) Jellyfish glow by converting blue luminescence to green through BRET. Bottom A luciferase enzyme/nanorod biotic-abiotic nanomaterial hybrid emits red light upon chemical stimulation, using the same bilogical function

Improving the efficiency of nanoscale energy transfer in quantum dot or quantum rod based systems requires the ability to fine tune "donor-acceptor" variables, such as distance, stoichiometry, and donor and acceptor spectral overlap.  In most energy transfer cases quantum dots or rods are used as donors because they efficiently harvest light with broad absorption extending to UV wavelengths. In this study, the authors develop a nanohybrid biotic-abiotic system inspired by nature's bioluminescent energy transfer (BRET) process, where the donor is a biomolecule that undergoes chemical stimulation —  leading to bioluminescence, which is subsequently transferred to an acceptor biomolecule that emits light.  In this work, the donor is a luciferase enzyme which emits green light following chemical stimulation — and the acceptor is a core-shell nanocrystal designed absorb/emit in the red spectral region. The results allowed the research team to elucidate the design parameters needed to improve BRET efficiency.  This effort was greatly enhanced by the use of the CFN Advanced Optical Microscopy facilities. Working with CFN scientists, the team measured the spectroscopy and time response of BRET in nanoconjugates, which allowed for crucial understanding of the photophysics of BRET.

CFN Capabilities:

The CFN Advanced Optical Microscopy facilities were used to perform BRET experiments.

Publication Reference

R. Alam,1 L.M. Karam,1 T.L. Doane,1 K. Coopersmith,1 D.M. Fontaine,2 B.R. Branchini,2 M.M. Maye,1 Probing Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer in Quantum Rod–Luciferase Nanoconjugates, ACS Nano 10, 1969 (2016).

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.5b05966


Acknowledgement of Support

The work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-10-1-0033, FA9550-14-0100). This research used resources of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, which is a U.S. DOE Office of Science Facility, at Brookhaven National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-SC0012704

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