The surface coating-dependent catalytic activity of icosahedral Au nanoparticles (IAuNPs) for the reduction of 4-nitrophenol by NaBH(4) in aqueous solution was investigated. Cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB)-stabilized IAuNPs with average size of 50 nm were prepared by three-step seeding protocol. The CTAB was then exchanged with several amine derivatives such as pyrrole, pyridine, 2,2'-bipyridine, and 4,4'-bipyridine. The catalytic reaction rates of nanoparticles are in the order of IAuNPs@4,4'-bpy > IAuNP5@2,2'-bpy > IAuNPs@pyridine > IAuNPs@pyrrole > IAuNPs@CTAB, revealing that the catalytic activity of the nanoparticles highly depends on the type and structure of the ligand molecules. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.