The azobenzene moiety, well-known not only for its reversible cis-to-trans photoisomerization but also as a hapten, does not induce antibodies on its own, but it reacts with antibodies raised against conjugates with protein carriers. Hence we selected azobenzene dye as an indicator to assess the possibility of having gold nano-particles act as an immunological carrier instead of protein carriers. In rabbits, we confirmed an in vivo response against azobenzene dye presented on the entire surface of gold nanoparticles (azo-nanoparticles), where the gold nanoparticles appeared to play a role as a carrier for the hapten. A high yield of immunoglobulin G (IgG) against the azobenzene derivative took place in rabbits injected with azo-nanoparticles, whereas no increase in IgG was recognized in other rabbits treated solely with chemically equivalent azobenzene dye instead of azo-nanoparticles. Electron microscopy and surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy indicated that the IgG obtained specifically recognized the difference between the isomer conformations of the azobenzene moiety.
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