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The global pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus has necessitated rapid, easy-to-use, and accurate diagnostic methods to monitor the virus infection. Herein, a ratiometric fluorescence enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed using Si-fluorescein isothiocyanate nanoparticles (FITC NPs) for detecting SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein. Si-FITC NPs were prepared by a one-pot hydrothermal method using 3-aminopropyl triethoxysilane (APTES)-FITC as the Si source. This method did not need post-modification and avoided the reduction in quantum yield and stability. The p-nitrophenyl (pNP) produced by the alkaline phosphatase (ALP)-mediated hydrolysis of p-nitrophenyl phosphate (pNPP) could quench Si fluorescence in Si-FITC NPs via the inner filter effect. In ELISA, an immunocomplex was formed by the recognition of capture antibody/N protein/reporter antibody. ALP-linked secondary antibody bound to the reporter antibody and induced pNPP hydrolysis to specifically quench Si fluorescence in Si-FITC NPs. The change in fluorescence intensity ratio could be used for detecting N protein, with a wide linearity range (0.01-10.0 and 50-300 ng/mL) and low detection limit (0.002 ng/mL). The concentration of spiked SARS-CoV-2 N protein could be determined accurately in human serum. Moreover, this proposed method can accurately distinguish coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and non-COVID-19 patient samples. Therefore, this simple, sensitive, and accurate method can be applied for the early diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection. Supplementary material (characterization of Si-FITC NPs (FTIR spectrum, XRD spectra, and synchronous fluorescence spectra); condition optimization of ALP response (fluorescence intensity ratio change); mechanism investigation of ALP response (fluorescence lifetime decay curves and UV-vis absorption spectra); detection of N protein using commercial ELISA Kit; analytical performance of assays for ALP detection or SARS-CoV-2 N protein detection; and determination results of SARS-CoV-2 N protein in human serum) is available in the online version of this article at 10.1007/s12274-022-4740-5. © Tsinghua University Press 2022.


Guobin Mao, Yang Yang, Shijie Cao, Silu Ye, Yifang Li, Wei Zhao, Hongwei An, Yingxia Liu, Junbiao Dai, Yingxin Ma. Ratiometric fluorescence immunoassay of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein via Si-FITC nanoprobe-based inner filter effect. Nano research. 2023;16(4):5383-5390

PMID: 35992363

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