Microchimica Acta

, 186:360 | Cite as

In-situ growth of cobalt oxyhydroxide on graphitic-phase C3N4 nanosheets for fluorescence turn-on detection and imaging of ascorbic acid in living cells

  • Yuanxia Lv
  • Caiyan Jiang
  • Kun HuEmail author
  • Yong Huang
  • Yunfeng He
  • Xiaoying Shen
  • Shulin ZhaoEmail author
Short Communication


Cobalt oxyhydroxide (CoOOH) was grown on the surface of graphitic-phase C3N4 nanosheets to obtain an activatable fluorescent nanoprobe for ascorbic acid (AA). The probe was applied to the detection of AA in biological fluids and to image AA in HeLa cells. The negatively charged nanosheets first adsorb Co2+, and then the CoOOH nanoflakes are generated in-situ on the surface of g-C3N4. This results in the quenching of the blue fluorescence (with excitation/emission maxima of 345/435 nm) via fluorescence resonance energy transfer from g-C3N4 to CoOOH. The AA-induced redox reaction reduces the trivalent cobalt ion in CoOOH to Co2+ which then becomes released from the nanosheets. This leads to the recovery of fluorescence. The method can quantify AA in the 1.0 to 800 μM concentration range at near neutral pH values. When applied to cell extracts, the limit of detection is 0.14 μM. The nanoprobe was successfully applied to the determination of AA in serum and urine, and to image AA in living HeLa cells. Additional attractive features include the ease of preparation, low cytotoxicity, rapid fluorometric turn-on response, and good biocompatibility.

Graphical abstract

Schematic presentation of an activatable fluorescent nanoprobe. It consists of CoOOH nanoflakes that were modified withg-C3N4 nanosheets. It enables monitoring of AA in the biological samples as well as imaging of AA in living cells.


Nanoprobe Fluorescence Fluorescence imaging Graphitic-phase C3N4 Cobalt oxyhydroxide Fluorescence resonance energy transfer Ascorbic acid In-situ HeLa cells Fluorescence turn-on response 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundations of China (Nos. 21565007, 81460544 and 201575031), and the Natural Science Foundations of Guangxi Province (No. 2015GXNSFGA139003) as well as the BAGUI Scholar Program, State Key Laboratory for Chemistry and Molecular Engineering of Medicinal Resources (Nos. CMEMR2015-A08 and CMEM2014-A06), IRT_16R15 and Talent’s Small High and Project of Guangxi Medicine Industry (No. 1509).

Compliance with ethical standards

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

Supplementary material

604_2019_3487_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.8 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2.83 mb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory for Chemistry and Molecular Engineering of Medicinal Resources, School of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical SciencesGuangxi Normal UniversityGuilinPeople’s Republic of China

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