Carbon dots exhibit great potential in applications such as molecular imaging and in vivo molecular tracking. However, how to enhance fluorescence intensity of carbon dots has become a great challenge. Herein, we report for the first time a new strategy to synthesize fluorescent carbon dots (C-dots) with high quantum yields by using ribonuclease A (RNase A) as a biomolecular templating agent under microwave irradiation. The synthesized RNase A-conjugated carbon dots (RNase A@C-dots) exhibited quantum yields of 24.20%. The fluorescent color of the RNase A@C-dots can easily be adjusted by varying the microwave reaction time and microwave power. Moreover, the emission wavelength and intensity of RNase A@C-dots displayed a marked excitation wavelength-dependent character. As the excitation wavelength alters from 300 to 500 nm, the photoluminescence (PL) peak exhibits gradually redshifts from 450 to 550 nm, and the intensity reaches its maximum at an excitation wavelength of 380 nm. Its Stokes shift is about 80 nm. Notably, the PL intensity is gradually decreasing as the pH increases, almost linearly dependent, and it reaches the maximum at a pH = 2 condition; the emission peaks also show clearly a redshift, which may be caused by the high activity and perfective dispersion of RNase A in a lower pH solution. In high pH solution, RNase A tends to form RNase A warped carbon dot nanoclusters. Cell imaging confirmed that the RNase A@C-dots could enter into the cytoplasm through cell endocytosis. 3D confocal imaging and transmission electron microscopy observation confirmed partial RNase A@C-dots located inside the nucleus. MTT and real-time cell electronic sensing (RT-CES) analysis showed that the RNase A@C-dots could effectively inhibit the growth of MGC-803 cells. Intra-tumor injection test of RNase A@C-dots showed that RNase A@C-dots could be used for imaging in vivo gastric cancer cells. In conclusion, the as-prepared RNase A@C-dots are suitable for simultaneous therapy and in vivo fluorescence imaging of nude mice loaded with gastric cancer or other tumors.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work is supported by the National Key Basic Research Program (973 Project) (No. 2011CB933100), National Natural Scientific Fund (Nos. 81225010, 81327002, 31100717 and 31170961), 863 project of China (2012AA022703), Shanghai Science and Technology Fund (Nos. 13NM1401500 and 11 nm0504200), and Shanghai Jiao Tong University Innovation Fund for Postgraduates (No. AE340011).
- Carbon dots
- MGC-803 cell line
- Microwave irradiation
- Molecular imaging
- RNase A