Bacterial killing by light-triggered release of silver from biomimetic metal nanorods

Kvar C.L. Black, Tadas S. Sileika, Ji Yi, Ran Zhang, José G. Rivera, Phillip B. Messersmith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Illumination of noble metal nanoparticles at the plasmon resonance causes substantial heat generation, and the transient and highly localized temperature increases that result from this energy conversion can be exploited for photothermal therapy by plasmonically heating gold nanorods (NRs) bound to cell surfaces. Here, plasmonic heating is used for the first time to locally release silver from gold core/silver shell (Au@Ag) NRs targeted to bacterial cell walls. A novel biomimetic method of preparing Au@Ag core-shell NRs is employed, involving deposition of a thin organic polydopamine (PD) primer onto Au NR surfaces, followed by spontaneous electroless silver metallization, and conjugation of antibacterial antibodies and passivating polymers for targeting to gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Dramatic cytotoxicity of S. epidermidis and E. coli cells targeted with Au@Ag NRs is observed upon exposure to light as a result of the combined antibacterial effects of plasmonic heating and silver release. The antibacterial effect is much greater than with either plasmonic heating or silver alone, implying a strong therapeutic synergy between cell-targeted plasmonic heating and the associated silver release upon irradiation. The findings suggest a potential antibacterial use of Au@Ag NRs when coupled with light irradiation, which has not been previously described. Bimetallic gold core/silver shell nanorods are formed with polydopamine-based biomimetic synthesis and target bacteria with antibody functionalization. Light irradiation of the nanorods causes plasmonic heating and release of silver, which efficiently kills E. coli and S. epidermidis bacteria with a novel multifunctional therapeutic strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-178
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2014


  • antibacterial silver release
  • antibodies
  • melanin-mimetic polydopamine
  • metal nanorods
  • plasmonic heating


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