Faculty Mentor

Dr. Timea Fernandez


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Geology



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Antibiotic resistance is major problem in modern medicine. Seventy percent of bacterial strains are resistant to at least one antibiotic, making treatment of bacterial infections ever more expensive and difficult. Currently, we are investigating the therapeutic potency of nucleic acid-gold nanoparticle conjugates as treatments against bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotic tetracycline. We hypothesize that by attaching RNA that binds to tetracycline to silver or gold nanoparticles the resulting conjugates will work as a “Trojan-horse” tetracycline-delivery vehicle that smuggles the antibiotic into the cell without being detected by cellular defense systems. Moreover, we reason that silver or gold ions released by the nanoparticles add to the antimicrobial effects of tetracycline.

To demonstrate the viability of this idea, we set out to generate a nuclease resistant variant of the tetracycline binding RNA ykkCD and attach it to gold nanoparticles. During the summer we furthered the progress of this research in there major ways. First, we optimized conditions used for the polymerase chain reaction that generates the DNA template for RNA synthesis. Second, we found the most efficient way to synthesize RNA containing modified nucleotides. Usage of modified nucleotides is necessary to prevent degradation of the tetracycline-binding RNA by cellular nucleases. Third, we optimized a stability assay to verify that the modified RNAs are stable in cellular environments. Fourth, we attached the tetracycline binding RNA to gold nanoparticles.

The next steps in the process would be to test the potency of this modified RNA-gold nanoparticle conjugate against a tetracycline-resistant strain of the bacteria E. Coli.

Publication Date





This project was joint work with Mark Buckles (Ball State University), Juliana Shuli (Ball State University), and John McKillip (Ball State University) and was funded by SC INBRE and EPScoR.

Using nucleic acid-gold nanoparticle conjugate in the fight against bacteria that are resistant to tetracycline antibiotics

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Chemistry Commons



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