A highly sensitive fluorescence detection probe was developed by tailoring plastic antibodies on the external surface of aqueous soluble quantum dots (QDs). The target was Myoglobin (Myo), a cardiac biomarker that quenched the intrinsic fluorescent emission of cadmium telluride (CdTe) QDs capped with mercaptopropionic acid (CdTe-MPA-QDs). The QDs were incubated with the target protein and further modified with a molecularly-imprinted polymer (MIP) produced by radical polymerization of acrylamide and bisacrylamide. The main physical features of the materials were assessed by electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering (DLS), UV/Vis spectrophotometry and spectrofluorimetry. The plastic antibodies enabled Myo rebinding into the QDs with subsequent fluorescence quenching. This QD-probe could detect Myo concentrations from 0.304 to 571 pg/ml (50.6 fM to 95 pM), with a limit of detection of 0.045 pg/ml (7.6 fM). The proposed method was applied to the determination of Myo concentrations in synthetic human serum. The results obtained demonstrated the ability of the modified-QDs to determine Myo below the cut-off values of myocardial infarction. Overall, the nanostructured MIP-QDs reported herein displayed quick responses, good stability and sensitivity, and high selectivity for Myo, offering the potential to be explored as new emerging sensors for protein detection in human samples.
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