Space-confined indicator displacement assay inside a metal–organic framework for fluorescence turn-on sensing†
The indicator displacement assay (IDA) is for the first time performed within a metal–organic framework (MOF) to achieve ultrasensitive fluorescence turn-on sensing. A Zr(IV) ion MOF (UiO-67-DQ–PsO) furnished with electron-deficient diquat units (DQ2+, as the receptor) on the wall and electron-rich 1-pyrenesulfonate anions (PsO−, as the fluorescent indicator) in the pores was prepared by postsynthetic anion exchange. The MOF is capable of sensing alkylamines owing to the competing PsO−–DQ2+ and alkylamine–DQ2+ charge-transfer interactions, the former interaction causing a fluorescence OFF state and the latter displacing PsO− to trigger its emission. Significant advantages have been demonstrated for the IDA inside the MOF. The turn-on assay exhibits much higher sensitivity and anti-interference than the turn-off sensing using the MOF without indicators (the sensitivity is enhanced by as much as six orders of magnitude to the subnanomolar level). The integration of both the receptor and indicator in the porous solid enables facile regeneration and recyclability of the IDA ensemble. Furthermore, we show that the confined space provided by the MOF significantly enhances the supramolecular interactions to make possible the IDA impossible in solution. This work not only demonstrates a novel conceptual approach to fabricate superior fluorescence turn-on sensors using porous materials but also has important implications for supramolecular chemistry in porous materials.