A ratiometric fluorescence sensor based on pyrene was designed for selective detection of heparin in HEPES (N-(2-hydroxyethyl)piperazine-N'-ethanesulfonic acid) buffer and serum sample. Pyrene and long-chain alkanes were linked through bisquaternary functionality in the sensor which could interact with heparin via supramolecular assembly. A ratiometric fluorescent signal change of the sensor can be observed because of the specific monomer-excimer conversion of pyrene which is modulated by the supramolecular self-assembly of sensor and heparin. Upon addition of heparin, the excimer emission of the sensor at 489 nm is observed and the monomer emission intensity at 395 nm decreases concomitantly. Addition of heparin derivatives with very similar structure such as chondroitin 4-sulfate or hyaluronic acid to the same sensor solution only leads to very smaller changes in intensity ratios probably because of lower charge density and more distant spatial distribution of anions (or disadvantageous spatial orientation of anions) as compared to those of heparin. The novel sensor can effectively differentiate heparin from its derivatives with relatively low background interference and wide linear response in HEPES and serum. A linear calibration curve is obtained from 0 to 3.4 μM for heparin quantification in serum.
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