Targeted nanoparticles often require conjugating targeting ligands to polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains of a nanoparticle's dense protecting corona. "Click" chemistries are commonly employed for their bioorthogonality, with strain-promoted azide-alkyne cycloadditions (SPAAC) increasingly chosen to avoid cytotoxic copper catalysts. However, conjugation becomes compromised if reactive PEG chain ends cannot encounter their reaction counterparts. We use fluorescence to probe the location of Nile Red, methylpyrene, and butylpyrene, dyes with comparable hydrophobicities to SPAAC alkynes (logP = 3.2-5.7), tethered to PEG chains on 100 nm NPs. Using fluorescence peak shifts, we find that Nile Red resides 43% of the time in the 5k PEG corona and 57% at the more hydrophobic nanoparticle core. Increasing the PEG MW to 67k doubles the corona dye fraction to 86% (14% core). More hydrophobic methylpyrene and butylpyrene, monitored with I1/I3 ratios, reside 1% in the corona (99% core). These results explain difficulties with using SPAAC reactions for conjugating large ligands to nanoparticles with PEG coronae.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry