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Simultaneous detection of multiple amino acids (AAs) instead of individual AAs is inherently worthwhile for improving diagnostic accuracy in clinical applications. Here, a facile and reliable colorimetric microfluidic paper-based analytical device (μPAD) using carbon dots doped with transition metals (Cr3+, Mn2+, Fe3+, Co2+, Ni2+, Cu2+, and Zn2+) has been provided to detect and discriminate 20 natural amino acids. To make the colourless metal-doped carbon dots suitable for colorimetric assays, they were mixed with ninhydrin to form a charge transfer complex. This optical tongue system, which was constructed by dropping mixtures of ninhydrin with a series of metal-doped carbon dots on a paper substrate in an array format, represented obvious but different colorimetric signatures for every examined amino acid. Since bovine serum albumin was used as a chiral selector reagent for synthesizing the CDs, the sensor device represented excellent selectivity to identify enantiomeric species of AAs. This is the first optical array device that can simultaneously discriminate AAs and several of their enantiomers. We employed various statistical and chemometric methods to analyze the digital data library collected by Image J software, including principal component analysis (PCA), linear discriminant analysis (LDA), and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA). Twenty AAs could be well distinguished at various concentrations (10.00, 5.00, 2.50, and 1.25 mM). The colorimetric patterns were highly repeatable and were characteristic of individual AAs. Besides qualitative analysis, the designed μPAD-based optical tongue represented quantitative analysis ability, e.g., for lysine in the concentration ranges of 0.005-20.0 mM with a detection limit of 1.0 × 10-6 M and for arginine in the concentration range of 0.12-20.00 mM with a detection limit of 80.0 × 10-6 M. In addition, the binary, ternary, and quaternary mixtures of AAs could also be well recognized with this sensor.


Motahareh Alimohammadi, Hoda Sharifi, Javad Tashkhourian, Mojtaba Shamsipur, Bahram Hemmateenejad. A paper-based chemical tongue based on the charge transfer complex of ninhydrin with an array of metal-doped carbon dots discriminates natural amino acids and several of their enantiomers. Lab on a chip. 2023 Aug 22;23(17):3837-3849

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PMID: 37501627

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