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Motif-Designed Peptide Nanofibers Decorated with Graphene Quantum Dots for Simultaneous Targeting and Imaging of Tumor Cells

Nanohybrids based on biomolecular nanostructures and graphene quantum dots (GQDs) have found wide application in the biological and biomedical fields. Recently, Prof. Zhiqiang Su at Beijing University of Chemical Technology reported the synthesis, characterization, and cellular imaging of self-assembled peptide nanofibers (PNFs) decorated with GQDs for the first time, and the related work has been published in Adv. Funct. Mater. 2015, 25, 5472-5478. In this work, a designed peptide with tri-functional motifs was used as the precursor building block for constructing a novel multifunctional PNF, and highly fluorescent GQDs were conjugated onto the surface of PNF by non-covalent interactions. The physicochemical properties of these PNF-GQD nanohybrids were thoroughly characterized by a variety of spectroscopic and microscopic techniques, revealing that the GQDs essentially maintain their favorable optical properties in the nanohybrids. A good biocompatibility of the PNF-GQD nanohybrids was found with cell viability assays. With both, a recognition moiety (RGD) and an imaging probe (GQDs), these PNF-GQD nanohybrids possess the capability of targeting and imaging tumor cells simultaneously. A potential application of these novel nanohybrids, i.e., fluorescence imaging of HeLa tumor cells, has been investigated by confocal fluorescence microscopy, which shows much enhanced labeling efficiency compared with GQDs only. Moreover, cellular internalization by non-tumorous COS-7 cells was much weaker than by HeLa cells. Their results show that GQD-decorated PNF nanohybrids have great potential as multifunctional platforms for biomedical applications, particularly, where the capability of sensitive tracking and efficient labeling is appreciated.
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