Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemistry & Biochemistry

First Advisor

Daniel L. Feldheim

Second Advisor

Dylan Taatjes

Third Advisor

Amy Palmer

Fourth Advisor

Marcelo Sousa

Fifth Advisor

Michael Stowell


Nature is continually able to out-perform laboratory syntheses of nanomaterials with control of specific properties under ambient temperatures, pressures and pH. The investigation of existing biomolecule-mediated nanoparticle synthesis provides insight and knowledge necessary for duplicating these processes. In this way, peptides or proteins with nanomaterial mediation capabilities can be: 1) explored to further understand the ways in which biomolecules create specific nanoparticles then 2) used to create genetically encodable tags for use in electron tomography. The goal of designing such a tag was to assist in closing the resolution gap that exists in current imaging techniques between approximately 5 nm and 100 nm. Presented in this thesis are examples of peptides and proteins that form iron oxide, silver or gold nanoparticles under discrete circumstances. Three iron oxide-related bacterial proteins - bacterioferritin, Dps and Mms6 - were investigated for potential use. Similarly, a silver mineralizing peptide, Ge8, was studied upon attachment to the filamentous protein, FtsZ, and a gold mineralizing peptide, A3, was examined to characterize the way in which it mediates the formation of both Au0 nanoclusters and nanoparticles.

Given the established interactions that occur between nanoparticles and biomolecules, it may not be surprising that gold nanoparticles displaying specific ratios of functional groups are able to interact with bacteria, in some cases inhibiting growth or causing cell death as antibiotics. A previously developed small molecule variable ligand display (SMVLD) method was expanded to identify a nanoparticle conjugate with a minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC99.9) of 6 μM for Mycobacterium smegmatis, a common laboratory model for M. tuberculosis and the first example of SMVLD applied to mycobacteria. Nanoparticle structure-activity relationships, modes of action and approximations of mammalian cell toxicities were also explored to expand our understanding of how these nanoparticle antibiotics function and increase our ability to rationally design potential nanoparticle therapeutics for specific targets in the future. Finally, a new method for on-particle ligand quantitation via solid-state NMR spectroscopy was developed and applied to three different cases of nanoparticle conjugates.