A simple mesoporous silica nanoparticle-based fluorescence aptasensor for the detection of zearalenone in grain and cereal products


Zearalenone (ZEN) is a type of estrogenic mycotoxin commonly occurring in cereals. The aim of this study was to design a simple, rapid, inexpensive and ultrasensitive fluorescence assay for the determination of ZEN. Here, amino-modified mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs-NH2) were synthesized to be the positive charge-rich reactor. A 6-carboxy-fluorescein-labeled aptamer (aptamer-FAM) was designed as the signal probe, ZEN-capture probe and negative charge reactor. In the absence of ZEN, the negatively charged aptamer-FAM combined with the positively charged MSNs-NH2 in an electrostatic manner. In the presence of ZEN, the fluorescence intensity in the supernatant increased significantly because the aptamer-FAM could bind to ZEN instead of MSNs-NH2. Under the optimal experimental conditions, this assay exhibited excellent specificity, repeatability and a wide linearity range of 0.005–150 ng/mL, with a detection limit of 0.012 ng/mL. Additionally, it showed high recovery (83.3–101.5%) for the spiked samples. There was no statistically significant difference in the ZEN concentrations detected by the proposed assay and HPLC in naturally contaminated samples. Overall, this design provides a new strategy for the rapid, inexpensive and sensitive detection of ZEN, and it could be applied to develop fluorometric assays for different targets by the selection of appropriate aptamers.

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This work was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (Project NO. XDJK2020B044) and Venture & Innovation Support Program for Chongqing Overseas Returnees (Project No. cx2018032).

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Correspondence to Yuhao Zhang or Liang Ma.

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Tan, H., Guo, T., Zhou, H. et al. A simple mesoporous silica nanoparticle-based fluorescence aptasensor for the detection of zearalenone in grain and cereal products. Anal Bioanal Chem (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-020-02778-3

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  • Zearalenone
  • Mesoporous silica nanoparticles
  • Fluorescein-labeled aptamer
  • Fluorometric assay