Plasmonic cell nanocoating: a new concept for rapid microbial screening

Ke Xu, Minh Phuong N. Bui, Aiqin Fang, Abdennour Abbas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Nanocoating of single microbial cells with gold nanostructures can confer optical, electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties to microorganisms, thus enabling new avenues for their control, study, application, and detection. Cell nanocoating is often performed using layer-by-layer (LbL) deposition. LbL is time-consuming and relies on nonspecific electrostatic interactions, which limit potential applications for microbial diagnostics. Here, we show that, by taking advantage of surface molecules densely present in the microbial outer layers, cell nanocoating with gold nanoparticles can be achieved within seconds using surface molecules, including disulfide- bond-containing (Dsbc) proteins and chitin. A simple activation of these markers and their subsequent interaction with gold nanoparticles allow specific microbial screening and quantification of bacteria and fungi within 5 and 30 min, respectively. The use of plasmonics and fluorescence as transduction methods offers a limit of detection below 35 cfu mL–1 for E. coli bacteria and 1500 cfu mL–1 for M. circinelloides fungi using a hand-held fluorescent reader.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6305-6314
Number of pages10
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number27
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The authors thank Dr. Renu Singh for help acquiring the Raman spectroscopy data and Yan Wu for help with microbial culture. The authors are grateful for the financial support of the National Science Foundation award No. 1605191, the University of Minnesota MnDRIVE Global Food Venture, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1006789, General Mills, Schwan Food Company Graduate Fellowship, and the Midwest Dairy Association.


  • Cell nanocoating
  • Chitin
  • Disulfide-bond containing (Dsbc) surface proteins
  • Gold nanoparticles
  • Microbial screening


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