Fluorescence detection of Fe3+ ions in aqueous solution and living cells based on a high selectivity and sensitivity chemosensor

Hongmin Jia, Xue Gao, Yu Shi, Nima Sayyadi, Zhiqiang Zhang*, Qi Zhao, Qingtao Meng, Run Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Although ferric ion (Fe3+) performs critical roles in diverse biochemical processes in living systems, its physiological and pathophysiological functions have not been fully explored due to the lack of methods for quantification of Fe3+ ions in biological system. In this work, a highly sensitive and selective fluorescence chemosensor, L, was developed for the detection of Fe3+ ions in aqueous solution and in living cells. L was facile synthesized by one step reaction and well characterized by NMR, API-ES, FT-IR, and elementary analysis. The prepared chemosensor displayed excellent selectivity for Fe3+ ions detection over a wide range of tested metal ions. In the present of Fe3+ ions, the strong green fluorescence of L was substantially quenched. The 1:1 stoichiometry of the complexation was confirmed by a Job's plot. The association constant (Ka) of L with Fe3+ was evaluated using the Benesi-Hildebrand method and was found to be 1.36 × 104 M-1. The MTT assay determined that L exhibits low cytotoxicity toward living cells. Confocal imaging and flow cytometry studies showed that L is readily interiorized by MDA-MB-231 cells through an energy-dependent pathway and could be used to detect of Fe3+ ions in living cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674-681
Number of pages8
JournalSpectrochimica Acta - Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2015


  • Chemosensor
  • Ferric ion
  • Detection
  • Fluorescence imaging
  • Flow cytometry


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