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Sulfur quantum dot-based “ON-OFF-ON” fluorescence platform for detection and bioimaging of Cr(vi) and ascorbic acid in complex environmental matrices and biological tissues

  • Author(s): Xia, M
  • Mei, H
  • Qian, Q
  • Dahlgren, RA
  • Gao, M
  • Wang, X
  • et al.

Based on an “assembling-fission” principle, stable sulfur quantum dots (SQDs) were synthesized using sublimed sulfur as a precursor and PEG-400 as a passivator. The fluorescence intensities (FIs) of SQDs were efficiently quenched by Cr(vi) due to formation of SQD/Cr(vi) complexes through the inner-filter effect. When ascorbic acid (AA) was introduced into the SQD/Cr(vi) system, SQD fluorescence was restored due to AA-induced reduction of Cr(vi) to Cr(iii). Consequently, a SQD-based “ON-OFF-ON” platform was constructed for sequential detection of Cr(vi) and AA. Under optimized conditions, the FIs of SQDs were linearly dependent on the concentrations of Cr(vi) and AA, yielding linear ranges of 0.005-1.5 and 0.01-5.5 mM with detection limits of 1.5 and 3 μM, respectively, in waters, serum and tablet samples. After a 24 h incubation, the SQDs displayed strong, quenched and recovered blue fluorescence, respectively, in the SQD, SQD/AAO/Cr(vi) and SQD/Cr(vi) systems in live HeLa cells and zebrafish embryos/larvae. A blue fluorescence was displayed in the yolk of zebrafish embryos, and yolk and head of larvae. This study demonstrates the efficacy of SQD systems for environmental and biological applications in complex matrices, and for direct observation of Cr bioaccumulation in organisms by bioimaging.

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