Catalytically active nanomaterials: a promising candidate for artificial enzymes

Youhui Lin, Jinsong Ren, Xiaogang Qu
Accounts of Chemical Research 2014 April 15, 47 (4): 1097-105
Natural enzymes, exquisite biocatalysts mediating every biological process in living organisms, are able to accelerate the rate of chemical reactions up to 10(19) times for specific substrates and reactions. However, the practical application of enzymes is often hampered by their intrinsic drawbacks, such as low operational stability, sensitivity of catalytic activity to environmental conditions, and high costs in preparation and purification. Therefore, the discovery and development of artificial enzymes is highly desired. Recently, the merging of nanotechnology with biology has ignited extensive research efforts for designing functional nanomaterials that exhibit various properties intrinsic to enzymes. As a promising candidate for artificial enzymes, catalytically active nanomaterials (nanozymes) show several advantages over natural enzymes, such as controlled synthesis in low cost, tunability in catalytic activities, as well as high stability against stringent conditions. In this Account, we focus on our recent progress in exploring and constructing such nanoparticulate artificial enzymes, including graphene oxide, graphene-hemin nanocomposites, carbon nanotubes, carbon nanodots, mesoporous silica-encapsulated gold nanoparticles, gold nanoclusters, and nanoceria. According to their structural characteristics, these enzyme mimics are categorized into three classes: carbon-, metal-, and metal-oxide-based nanomaterials. We aim to highlight the important role of catalytic nanomaterials in the fields of biomimetics. First, we provide a practical introduction to the identification of these nanozymes, the source of the enzyme-like activities, and the enhancement of activities via rational design and engineering. Then we briefly describe new or enhanced applications of certain nanozymes in biomedical diagnosis, environmental monitoring, and therapeutics. For instance, we have successfully used these biomimetic catalysts as colorimetric probes for the detection of cancer cells, nucleic acids, proteins, metal ions, and other small molecules. In addition, we also introduce three exciting advances in the use of efficient modulators on artificial enzyme systems to improve the catalytic performance of existing nanozymes. For example, we report that graphene oxide could serve as a modulator to greatly improve the catalytic activity of lysozyme-stabilized gold nanoclusters at neutral pH, which will have great potential for applications in biological systems. We show that, through the incorporation of modulator into artificial enzymes, we can offer a facile but highly effective way to improve their overall catalytic performance or realize the catalytic reactions that were not possible in the past. We expect that nanozymes with unique properties and functions will attract increasing research interest and lead to new opportunities in various fields of research.


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