Microchimica Acta

, Volume 183, Issue 4, pp 1409–1416 | Cite as

Carbon dots doped with nitrogen and sulfur and loaded with copper(II) as a “turn-on” fluorescent probe for cystein, glutathione and homocysteine

  • Ying Guo
  • Lianli Yang
  • Wuwu Li
  • Xiaofang Wang
  • Yonghui Shang
  • Baoxin Li
Original Paper


We report on the synthesis of fluorescent carbon dots doped with nitrogen and sulfur (N,S-CDs) via a hydrothermal process in pure water and starting from a mixture of alfalfa and garlic. Compared to N-doped CDs, the N,S-CDs exhibit a high fluorescence quantum yield (10 %) and a more longwave emission maximum (at 481 nm). The results also pave the way to tune the luminescence of CDs. The fluorescence of the N,S-CDs is quenched by Cu(II) ions but is recovered by addition of any of the biothiols cystein, glutathione or homocysteine. This turn-on effect was exploited to design a method for the quantification of these thiols in concentrations as low as 86 nM. The method was successfully applied to the determination of Cys in (spiked) human serum samples.

Graphical Abstact

Carbon dots doped with nitrogen and sulfur and loaded with copper(II) as a “turn-on” fluorescent probe for cystein, glutathione and homocysteine. Nitrogen and sulfur co-doped carbon dots with blue-green fluorescence are synthesized by one-step hydrothermal treatment of hybrid plant (alfalfa and garlic), and demonstrated as environmentally-friendly fluorescence probes for the sensing of biothiols with high sensitivity and selectivity.


Quenching Fluorescence recovery Quantum yield Luminescence Imaging Transmission electron microscopy 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21475113), the Sci-Tech Research Development Program of Shaanxi Province (2014JM2049), the Natural Science Foundation of Shaanxi Province (2012JQ2013), and the Special Scientific Research Funding of Xianyang Normal University (14XSYK016).

Compliance with ethical standards

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

Supplementary material

604_2016_1779_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 1328 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ying Guo
    • 1
  • Lianli Yang
    • 1
  • Wuwu Li
    • 1
  • Xiaofang Wang
    • 1
  • Yonghui Shang
    • 1
  • Baoxin Li
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Chemistry & Chemical EngineeringXianyang Normal UniversityXianyangChina
  2. 2.Key laboratory of Analytical Chemistry for Life Science of Shaanxi Province, School of Chemistry & Chemical EngineeringShaanxi Normal UniversityXi’anChina

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