ACS nano

Highly robust, recyclable displacement assay for mercuric ions in aqueous solutions and living cells.

PMID 23121626


We designed a recyclable Hg(2+) probe based on Rhodamine B isothiocyanate (RBITC)-poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-comodified gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) with excellent robustness, selectivity, and sensitivity. On the basis of a rational design, only Hg(2+) can displace RBITC from the AuNP surfaces, resulting in a remarkable enhancement of RBITC fluorescence initially quenched by AuNPs. To maintain stability and monodispersity of AuNPs in real samples, thiol-terminated PEG was employed to bind with the remaining active sites of AuNPs. Besides, this displacement assay can be regenerated by resupplying free RBITC into the AuNPs solutions that were already used for detecting Hg(2+). Importantly, the detection limit of this assay for Hg(2+) (2.3 nM) was lower than the maximum limits guided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as well as that permitted by the World Health Organization. The efficiency of this probe was demonstrated in monitoring Hg(2+) in complex samples such as river water and living cells.