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Horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-based assays feature particular interests because of the simple colorimetric readout. In these assays, 3,3',5,5'-tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) is the most widely used chromogenic substrates for HRP. The later research in nanozyme and DNAzyme also used TMB (the chosen substrate) because they are both HRP-mimics. It should be noted that the substrate of HRP is not just limited to TMB but, in fact, a broad range of benzidine derivatives. However, except decreased carcinogenicity due to tetrasubstitution of benzidine, the rationale for the chosen substrate TMB is not clear yet. Here, we addressed such a fundamental issue from the chemistry point of view. Nine benzidine derivatives featuring varied properties (different substitution groups and varied number of substitutions) were selected and investigated with four typical TMB-involved chromogenic systems. Among the existing benzidine substrates that are used for peroxidase-based assays, TMB exhibited the highest sensitivity, better color purity of colored products, and reasonable stability of oxidation products. Moreover, two tetrasubstituted benzidine derivatives other than TMB (4OCH3 and 2OCH32CH3) were synthesized for comparison. It turned out that the performances (sensitivity, color purity, and stability of the colored products) of TMB are still superior, thus chemically confirming its status of "the chosen substrate" in colorimetric assays.


Xiao Zhang, Qin Yang, Yunhe Lang, Xia Jiang, Peng Wu. Rationale of 3,3',5,5'-Tetramethylbenzidine as the Chromogenic Substrate in Colorimetric Analysis. Analytical chemistry. 2020 Sep 15;92(18):12400-12406

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PMID: 32794705

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