Microchimica Acta

, 185:216 | Cite as

A colorimetric gold nanoparticle aggregation assay for malathion based on target-induced hairpin structure assembly of complementary strands of aptamer

  • Khalil Abnous
  • Noor Mohammad Danesh
  • Mohammad Ramezani
  • Mona Alibolandi
  • Ahmad Sarreshtehdar Emrani
  • Parirokh Lavaee
  • Seyed Mohammad Taghdisi
Original Paper


The authors describe a method for the colorimetric determination of the pesticide malathion. It is based on the use of a hairpin structure consisting of a complementary strand of aptamer and a double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) structure to protect gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) against salt-induced aggregation. In the absence of malathion, the dsDNA structure is preserved on the surface of AuNPs and the color of the AuNPs in solutions containing NaCl remains red. However, in the presence of malathion, a hairpin structure of complementary strand is formed. The Aptamer/Malathion complex and the complementary strand are released from the surface of the AuNPs. As a result, the AuNPs undergo salt-induced aggregation which is accompanied by a color change to blue. The assay allows malathion to be quantified within 35 min (A650/A520 was measured). The detection limit is 1 pM, and response is linear in the 5 pM to 10 nM malathion concentration range. The method is specific and was successfully applied to the determination of malathion in spiked human serum samples.

Graphical abstract

Schematic representation of detection of malathion based on dsDNA-modified gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) and the hairpin structure of the complementary strand.


Pesticide Color change Serum sample Salt induced aggregation Ratiometric detection Modified AuNPs 



Financial support of this study was provided by Mashhad University of Medical Sciences.

Compliance with ethical standards

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

604_2018_2752_MOESM1_ESM.doc (4.5 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 4.48 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pharmaceutical Research Center, Pharmaceutical Technology InstituteMashhad University of Medical SciencesMashhadIran
  2. 2.Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of PharmacyMashhad University of Medical SciencesMashhadIran
  3. 3.Research Institute of Sciences and New TechnologyMashhadIran
  4. 4.Cardiovascular Research Center, School of MedicineMashhad University of Medical SciencesMashhadIran
  5. 5.Academic Center for Education, Culture and Research (ACECR)-Mashhad BranchMashhadIran
  6. 6.Targeted Drug Delivery Research Center, Pharmaceutical Technology InstituteMashhad University of Medical SciencesMashhadIran
  7. 7.Department of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, School of PharmacyMashhad University of Medical SciencesMashhadIran

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