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Specific and Quantitative Detection of Albumin in Biological Fluids by Tetrazolate-Functionalized Water-Soluble AIEgens

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journal contribution
posted on 07.08.2019, 14:34 by Yujie Tu, Yeqing Yu, Zhibiao Zhou, Sheng Xie, Bicheng Yao, Shujuan Guan, Bo Situ, Yong Liu, Ryan T. K. Kwok, Jacky W. Y. Lam, Sijie Chen, Xuhui Huang, Zebing Zeng, Ben Zhong Tang
The analysis of albumin has clinical significance in diagnostic tests and obvious value to research studies on the albumin-mediated drug delivery and therapeutics. The present immunoassay, instrumental techniques, and colorimetric methods for albumin detection are either expensive, troublesome, or insensitive. Herein, a class of water-soluble tetrazolate-functionalized derivatives with aggregation-induced emission (AIE) characteristics is introduced as novel fluorescent probes for albumin detection. They can be selectively lighted up by site-specific binding with albumin. The resulting albumin fluorescent assay exhibits a low detection limit (0.21 nM), high robustness in aqueous buffer (pH = 6–9), and a broad tunable linear dynamic range (0.02–3000 mg/L) for quantification. The tetrazolate functionality endows the probes with a superior water solubility (>0.01 M) and a high binding affinity to albumin (KD = 0.25 μM). To explore the detection mechanism, three unique polar binding sites on albumin are computationally identified, where the multivalent tetrazolate–lysine interactions contribute to the tight binding and restriction of the molecular motion of the AIE probes. The key role of lysine residues is verified by the detection of poly-l-lysine. Moreover, we applied the fluorogenic method to quantify urinary albumin in clinical samples and found it a feasible and practical strategy for albumin analysis in complex biological fluids.