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J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Mar 17;132(10):3621-7. doi: 10.1021/ja910918b.

Silver ion incorporation and nanoparticle formation inside the cavity of Pyrococcus furiosus ferritin: structural and size-distribution analyses.

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University of Bristol, Physics Department, HH Wills Physics Laboratory, Tyndall Avenues, Bristol, BS8 1TL, UK.


Highly symmetrical protein cage architectures from three different iron storage proteins, heavy and light human ferritin chains (HuHFt and HuLFt) and ferritin from the hyperthemophilic bacterium Pyrococcus furiosus (PfFt), have been used as models for understanding the molecular basis of silver ion deposition and metal core formation inside the protein cavity. Biomineralization using protein cavities is an important issue for the fabrication of biometamaterials under mild synthetic conditions. Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) were produced with high yields within PfFt but not within HuHFt and HuLFt. To explain the molecular basis of silver incorporation, the X-ray crystal structure of Ag-containing PfFt has been solved. This is the first structure of a silver containing ferritin reported to date, and it revealed the presence of specific binding and nucleation sites of Ag(I) that are not conserved in other ferritin templates. The AgNP encapsulated by PfFt were further characterized by the combined use of different physical-chemical techniques. These showed that the AgNPs are endowed with a narrow size distribution (2.1 +/- 0.4 nm), high stability in water solution at millimolar concentration, and high thermal stability. These properties make the AgNP obtained within PftFt exploitable for a range of applications, in fields as diverse as catalysis in water, preparation of metamaterials, and in vivo diagnosis and antibacterial or tumor therapy.

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