A ratiometric fluorescent core-shell nanoprobe for sensing and imaging of zinc(II) in living cell and zebrafish

Wandi Chen, Qin Wang, Junping Ma, Cheuk Wing Li, Mo Yang, Changqing Yi

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


A zinc(II)-responsive ratiometric fluorescent core-shell nanoprobe (referred to as QPNPs) is described. It consist of an optimized combination of an internal reference dye (TBAP) encapsulated in the core, and a Zn(II)-specific indicator dye (PEIQ) in the shell. The nanoprobe was synthesized via single-step graft copolymerization induced by tert-butyl hydroperoxide at 80 °C. QPNPs exhibit a well-defined core-shell nanostructure and well-resolved dual emissions after photoexcitation at 380 nm. After exposure to Zn(II), the QPNPs display a green fluorescence peaking at ~500 nm that increases with the concentration of Zn(II), while the pink fluorescence of the porphine-derived reference dye peaking at ~650 nm remains unchanged. This results in color change from pink to green and thus enables Zn(II) to be detected both spectroscopically and with bare eyes. Zn(II) can be quantified with a 3.1 nM detection limit. The core-shell structured nanoprobe was also applied to real-time imaging of Zn(II) in living HeLa cells and in zebrafish. This work establishes a reliable approach to synthesize ratiometric fluorescent nanoprobes. It enables such nanoprobes to be prepared also by those not skilled in nanomaterial synthesis. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Article number523
JournalMicrochimica Acta
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Aqueous sensing
  • Graft copolymerization
  • HeLa cells
  • Intracellular imaging
  • PEI-PMMA nanoparticle
  • Porphyrin
  • Quinoline
  • Ratiometric fluorescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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