In Situ Sensing of the Neurotransmitter Acetylcholine in a Dynamic Range of 1 nM to 1 mM

Maral P.S. Mousavi, Mohamed K. Abd El-Rahman, Amr M. Mahmoud, Rania M. Abdelsalam, Philippe Bühlmann

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35 Scopus citations


The neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) plays a key role in the pathophysiology of brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the dynamics of ACh concentration changes and kinetics of ACh degradation in the living brain is crucial to unravel the pathophysiology of such diseases and the rational design of therapeutics. In this work, an electrochemical sensor capable of dynamic, label-free, selective, and in situ detection of ACh in a range of 1 nM to 1 mM (with temporal resolution of less than one second) was developed. The sensor was employed for the direct detection of ACh in artificial cerebrospinal fluid and rat brain homogenate, without any prior separation steps. A potentiometric receptor-doped ion-selective electrode (ISE) with selectivity for ACh was designed by taking advantage of the positive charge of ACh. The dynamic range, limit of detection (LOD), and the selectivity of the sensor were optimized stepwise by (i) screening of hydrophobic biomimetic calixarenes to identify receptors that strongly bind to ACh based on shape-selective multitopic recognition, (ii) doping of the ISE sensing membrane with an ACh-binding hydrophobic calixarene to enable selective detection of ACh in complex matrices, (iii) utilizing a hydrophilic calixarene in the inner filling solution of the ISE to buffer the concentration of ACh and, thereby, lower the LOD of the sensor, and (iv) introducing a surface treatment step prior to the measurement by placing the sensor for 1 min in a solution of a hydrophilic calixarene to lower the LOD of the sensor even further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2581-2589
Number of pages9
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 28 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M. P. S. M. was supported by the Graham N. Gleysteen Excellence Fellowship and a University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


  • acetylcholine
  • acetylcholinesterase
  • biomimetic receptors
  • brain chemistry
  • calixarenes
  • neurotransmitter
  • potentiometry


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