Microchimica Acta

, 186:717 | Cite as

Green fluorescent carbon quantum dots functionalized with polyethyleneimine, and their application to aptamer-based determination of thrombin and ATP

  • Ying GuoEmail author
  • Juncai Zhang
  • Weihong Zhang
  • Daodao Hu
Original Paper


Brightly fluorescent carbon quantum dots coated with polyethylenimine (PEI-CDs) were prepared using malic acid and PEI as the precursors. The PEI-CDs have a high quantum yield (41%) and green emission (peaking at 502 nm under 430 nm excitation), both of which are not affected by high ionic strength. The PEI-CDs have a positive charge at physiological pH values and can electrostatically bind aptamers with their negative charge. This is shown for aptamers binding thrombin or ATP. Binding of aptamers results in quenching of fluorescence. If thrombin or ATP are introduced, the respective aptamer will bind them, and the complex is then released from the PEI-CDs. Fluorescence increases in proportion to the analyte concentration. Under optimized conditions, thrombin and ATP can be sensitively and selectively detected by fluorometry with lower detection limits of 1.2 and 13 nM, respectively. The assay was successfully applied to the determination of thrombin and of ATP in spiked serum samples.

Graphical abstract

Green fluorescent carbon quantum dots were functionalized with polyethyleneimine. They were applied to aptamer-based determination of thrombin and ATP. The PEI-functionalized carbon quantum dots (PEI-CDs) have bright green fluorescence are were synthesized by one-step hydrothermal treatment of malic acid and PEI. Employing the PEI-CDs, a fluorometric aptamer-based assay was developed for the determination of thrombin and ATP.


PEI-CDs Apatmer sensor Green luminescent Fluorescence assay Thrombin detection ATP detection Hydrothermal reaction Malic acid Polyethylenimine Serum analysis 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21773150), the Natural Science Foundation of Shaanxi Province (2018JM2045).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

604_2019_3874_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.5 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2552 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ying Guo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juncai Zhang
    • 1
  • Weihong Zhang
    • 1
  • Daodao Hu
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Chemistry & Chemical EngineeringXianyang Normal UniversityXianyangChina
  2. 2.School of Materials Science and EngineeringShaanxi Normal UniversityXi’anChina

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