Determination of Thiols by Fluorescence using Au@Ag Nanoclusters as Probes

<div><p>A simple and label-free fluorescent assay for the sensitive determination of biological thiols was developed using Au@Ag nanoclusters. The sensing approach was based on the strong affinity of thiols to silver on the surface of the nanoclusters. In the presence of thiol-containing amino acids, the fluorescence of the Au@Ag nanoclusters was quenched due to the formation of a non-fluorescent coordination complex via the robust Ag-S bond, which allowed the determination of thiol-containing amino acids in a very simple and rapid way. Under the optimal conditions, an excellent linear relationship was present due to quenching of the Au@Ag nanoclusters over cysteine concentrations between 20 nM and 80 µM with a low detection limit of 5.87 nM. Glutathione was determined between 2 µM and 70 µM with a detection limit of 1.01 µM. In addition, the results reveal that the fluorescent assay has excellent selectivity toward thiol-containing amino acids compared to non-thiol containing amino acids. Moreover, the assay was successfully used to determine cysteine in human plasma, and thus Au@Ag nanoclusters are a suitable fluorescent probe for biological applications.</p></div>