Microchimica Acta

, Volume 184, Issue 7, pp 1923–1931 | Cite as

Fluorometric determination and imaging of glutathione based on a thiol-triggered inner filter effect on the fluorescence of carbon dots

  • Di Wu
  • Guoliang Li
  • Xuefeng Chen
  • Nannan Qiu
  • Xuexiang Shi
  • Guang Chen
  • Zhiwei Sun
  • Jinmao You
  • Yongning Wu
Original Paper


The authors describe a sensitive method for determination of glutathione (GSH) that is based on a thiol-triggered inner filter effect on the fluorescence of N-doped carbon dots (N-doped CDs). N-doped CDs with a quantum yield as high as 31% were prepared by a one-pot procedure, and 5,5′-dithiobis-(2-nitrobenzoic acid) was employed as a reagent for GSH recognition. The reaction product (5-thio-2-nitrobenzoic acid; TNB) acts as an absorber of the 410-nm light used to photo-excite the N-doped CDs. Hence, the fluorescence of N-doped CDs (peaking at 510 nm) is reduced with increasing concentrations of GSH. As little as 30 nM of GSH can be detected by this method. The approach was successfully applied to (a) food analysis, (b) an investigation of an oxidative stress model, and (c) to live cells imaging. The method does not require the surface of N-doped CDs to be chemically modified, and a linkage between receptor and fluorophore is not needed. In our perception, the method may become a viable tool for the detection and imaging of thiols.

Graphical abstract

Fluorescence sensing strategy for glutathione detection based on a thiol-triggered inner filter effect via new N-doped carbon dots and application to food analysis, oxidative stress study and cell imaging.


Nanomaterials Characterization 5,5′-Dithiobis-(2-nitrobenzoic acid) 5-Thio-2-nitrobenzoic acid Quantum yield Oxidative stress Food analysis Cell imaging 



This work was supported by The National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21677085, 21537001 and 81472986) and the Project funded by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No 2016 M590071).

Compliance with ethical standards

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

Supplementary material

604_2017_2187_MOESM1_ESM.docx (486 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 485 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Di Wu
    • 1
  • Guoliang Li
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Xuefeng Chen
    • 2
  • Nannan Qiu
    • 3
  • Xuexiang Shi
    • 3
  • Guang Chen
    • 4
  • Zhiwei Sun
    • 4
  • Jinmao You
    • 4
  • Yongning Wu
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesXiamen UniversityXiamenChina
  2. 2.School of Food and Biological EngineeringShaanxi University of Science & TechnologyXianChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratories of Chemical Safety and HealthChina National Center for Food Safety Risk AssessmentBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Life-Organic Analysis of Shandong ProvinceQufu Normal UniversityQufuPeople’s Republic of China

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