Coenzyme Q functionalized CdTe/ZnS quantum dots for reactive oxygen species (ROS) imaging

L X Qin, W Ma, D W Li, Y Li, X Y Chen, H B Kraatz, Tony D James, Y T Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


Quantum dots (QDs) have been widely used for fluorescent imaging in cells. In particular, surface functionalized QDs are of interest, since they possess the ability to recognize and detect the analytes in the surrounding nanoscale environment based on electron and hole transfer between the analytes and the QDs. Here we demonstrate that fluorescence enhancement/quenching in QDs can be switched by electrochemically modulating electron transfer between attached molecules and QDs. For this purpose, a number of redox-active coenzyme Q (CoQ) disulfide derivatives [CoQCnS](2) were synthesized with different alkyl chain lengths (n = 1, 5, and 10). The system supremely sensitive to NADH ( nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and superoxide radical (O2C center dot-), and represents a biomimetic electron-transfer system, modeling part of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. The results of our in situ fluorescence spectroelectro-chemical study demonstrate that the reduced state of [ CoQCnS] 2 significantly enhanced the fluorescence intensity of CdTe/ZnS QDs, while the oxidized state of the CoQ conjugates quench the fluorescence to varying degrees. Fluorescence imaging of cells loaded with the conjugate QD-[CoQCnS](2) displayed strikingly differences in the fluorescence depending on the redox state of the capping layer, thus introducing a handle for evaluating the status of the cellular redox potential status. Moreover, an MTT assay (MTT=3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) proved that the cytotoxicity of QDs was significantly reduced after immobilization by CoQ derivatives. Those unique features make CoQ derivatived QDs as a promising probe to image redox coenzyme function in vitro and in vivo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5262-5271
Number of pages10
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2011


  • quantum dots
  • fluorescence
  • reactive oxygen species
  • coenzyme Q
  • electrochemistry


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