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Anal Chem. 2008 Nov 1;80(21):8260-8. doi: 10.1021/ac801396y. Epub 2008 Oct 8.

Azamacrocycle activated quantum dot for zinc ion detection.

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  • 1Institute of Biotechnology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QT, United Kingdom.


A new fluorescent nanosensor family for Zn (2+) determination is reported based on azamacrocycle derivatization of CdSe/ZnS core/shell quantum dot nanoparticles. They are the first zinc ion sensors using QD nanoparticles in a host-guest and receptor-fluorophore system. Three azamacrocycles are demonstrated as receptors: TACN (1,4,7-triazacyclononane), cyclen (1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane), and cyclam (1,4,8,11-tetraazacyclotetradecane). Azamacrocycles conjugated to QDs via an amide link interact directly with one of the photoinduced QD charge carriers, probably transferring the hole in the QD to the azamacrocycle, thereby disrupting the radiative recombination process. When zinc ion enters the aza-crown, the lone pair electrons of the nitrogen atom become involved in the coordination and the energy level is no longer available for the hole-transfer mechanism, switching on the QD emission and a dramatic increase of the fluorescence intensity results, allowing the detection of low concentrations of zinc ions. Using this operating principle, three zinc ion sensors based on CdSe-ZnS core-shell QD nanoparticles showed a very good linearity in the range 5-500 microM, with detection limits lower than 2.4 microM and RSDs approximately 3% ( n = 10). In addition, the versatility of the sensors was demonstrated, since different sizes (and colors) of QDs can be employed and will respond to zinc in a similar way. In a study of interferences, the zinc-sensitive QDs showed good selectivity in comparison with other physiologically important cations and other transition metals tested. The results from fetal calf serum and samples mimicking physiological conditions suggested very good applicability in the determination of zinc ion in physiological samples.

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