Microchimica Acta

, Volume 182, Issue 7–8, pp 1353–1360 | Cite as

A sensitive and selective fluorescence assay for metallothioneins by exploiting the surface energy transfer between rhodamine 6G and gold nanoparticles

  • Yu-Qian Yan
  • Xian Tang
  • Yong-Sheng WangEmail author
  • Ming-Hui Li
  • Jin-Xiu Cao
  • Si-Han Chen
  • Yu-Feng Zhu
  • Xiao-Feng Wang
  • Yan-Qin Huang
Original Paper


We report on a sensitive and selective strategy for the determination of metallothioneins (MTs). The assay is based on the suppression of the surface energy transfer that occurs between rhodamine 6G (Rh6G) and gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). If Rh6G is adsorbed onto the surface of AuNPs in water solution of pH 3.0, its fluorescence is quenched due to surface energy transfer. However, on addition of MTs to the Rh6G-AuNPs system, fluorescence is recovered owing to the formation of the MTs-AuNPs complex and the release of Rh6G into the solution. Under optimized conditions, the increase in fluorescence intensity is directly proportional to the concentration of the MTs in the range from 9.68 to 500 ng mL−1, with a detection limit as low as 2.9 ng mL−1. The possible mechanism of this assay is discussed. The method was successfully applied to the determination of MTs in (spiked) human urine.

Graphical Abstract

Gold nanoparticles can quench the fluorescence of rhodamine 6G by surface energy transfer. The addition of metallothioneins to the solution results in the recovery of the fluorescence of the system owing to the release of rhodamine 6G from the surface of the gold nanoparticles.


Nanomaterial Gold nanoparticles Surface energy transfer Fluorescence spectroscopy Rhodamine 6G Metallothioneins Metalloprotein 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21177052), the Science and Technology Program of Hunan Province in China (No. 2010SK3039) and the Construct Program of the Key Discipline (Public Health and Preventive Medicine) in Hunan Province.

Supplementary material

604_2015_1457_MOESM1_ESM.doc (734 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 733 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu-Qian Yan
    • 1
  • Xian Tang
    • 1
  • Yong-Sheng Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ming-Hui Li
    • 1
  • Jin-Xiu Cao
    • 1
  • Si-Han Chen
    • 1
  • Yu-Feng Zhu
    • 1
  • Xiao-Feng Wang
    • 1
  • Yan-Qin Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Public HealthUniversity of South ChinaHengyangPeople’s Republic of China

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