Microchimica Acta

, 186:402 | Cite as

2,4-Dinitrobenzenesulfonate-functionalized carbon dots as a turn-on fluorescent probe for imaging of biothiols in living cells

  • Jiangjiang Sun
  • Qin Wang
  • Jiajun Yang
  • Jianjian Zhang
  • Zheng Li
  • Hua Li
  • Xiao-Feng YangEmail author
Original Paper


The authors describe a carbon dot-based fluorescent probe for biothiols. Green emissive carbon dots (g-CDs; with λexem maxima of 407/505 nm) were synthesized by a one-step solvothermal method starting from 3-diethylaminophenol. They were then covalently functionalized with 2,4-dinitrobenzenesulfonyl chloride to afford 2,4-Dinitrobenzenesulfonate-functionalized CDs (g-CD-DNBS) as a nanoprobe for biothiols. The fluorescence of the g-CD-DNBS is quite weak. Upon addition of biothiols, the DNBS group of the probe is removed by thiol groups. This results in gradual restoration of the green fluorescence. The nanoprobe exhibits high selectivity for biothiols over other amino acids and biological molecules. The detection limits for cysteine, homocysteine and glutathione are 69, 74 and 69 nM (S/N = 3), respectively. The probe was applied to image biothiols in SMMC-7721 cells.

Graphical abstract

Schematic presentation of the mechanism of 2,4-dinitrobenzenesulfonate-functionalized carbon dots (g-CD-DNBS) for the detection of biothiols. g-CDs: green emissive carbon dots.


Fluorescent nanoprobe Nanoparticles Solvothermal preparation Surface functionalization Nucleophilic substitution Serum assay Biothiol detection Cell imaging Fluorometric assay 



This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 21475105, 21675123) and the Science & Technology Department (No. 2018JM2001) of Shaanxi Province of China.

Compliance with ethical standards

The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

604_2019_3503_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (874 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 873 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Synthetic and Natural Functional Molecule Chemistry of Ministry of Education, College of Chemistry & Materials ScienceNorthwest UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Catalysis, School of Chemistry and Environment ScienceShaanxi University of TechnologyHanzhongPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.College of Life SciencesNorthwest UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China

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